Books of 2018

Since starting a personal blog a couple years ago I have included a list of books read each year. This year I have not included a list of books because of the self-inflicted work load in completing four doctoral level seminars in 2018. It was a rough year academically as the demands of ministry do not slow down because a paper is due. But all my assignments were submitted on time and now I have two months off before my next seminar. Which my wife and I are looking forward to having some extra time as we are planning our fishing excursions, building book shelves in my study (pic), and putting up a fence as we adopted two Siberian Husky pups in January. They are crazy beasts, but we love them.


Instead of listing every book read in 2018, I am listing some books from my studies that impacted me the most along with a short explanation. But first are my thoughts on the new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) that I read last year during my quiet times. Overall, I enjoyed the CSB and have recommended it to new Christians. It is a very readable translation and appreciate the labors involved by those to produce the CSB. And while I enjoyed reading the CSB in 2018, I do not plan to have it replace the ESV that has become my primary translation for personal reading and study. But if I were to rank my preferred translations of Scripture it would be the ESV, NASB, and then the CSB as I favor formal equivalence or dynamic equivalence.


As for the list of books that had the greatest impact on me last year, and in no particular order, are;

  1. A Journey To Hope: Healing the Traumatized Spirit by Michael and Kathy Langston. This book is a personal journey of the Langston’s as Michael, Navy Chaplain during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I highly recommend this book as the Langston’s share very telling stories of their struggles as husband and wife along with the stigmas associated with PTSD. Their work also contains additional references that are important to understanding combat trauma. For example, they cite Dr. Charles Hoge’s work in Once A Warrior Always A Warrior by providing a table of thirty-one combat skills and the responses in combat and at home. The table alone is worth the price of the book because it is very informative. This book is a must if you are interested in the study of PTSD.
  2. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Before deploying to Iraq my unit invited Lt. Col. Grossman to speak about his research, or killology. The book is revealing in the demands of war to have a more lethal force and the steps involved to achieve that. The revised and updated version also tackles the topic of our culture of violence today and the influence of Hollywood and video games has on our youth. The same principles used to prepare soldiers for combat are seen in how youth are being desensitized to violence from entertainment that prizes violent movies and first-person shooter games.
  3. Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness by Matthew S. Stanford. This book touches on the integration debate that many Christians find themselves in when it comes to counseling today. But that is another topic for another day. This is a very technical book while remaining very readable. Stanford explores mental and neurological disorders with biblical examples. But what I appreciated about Stanford’s work in this book is that he is an advocate for the Church’s involvement with other professionals in the care of those suffering from mental illness. He notes how the average local church, or average community of churches in an area, are not equipped to help those suffering from mental illness. And because my doctoral studies are examining the local churches response to military families struggling with combat trauma, I can attest that there is a gap when it comes to churches capable and intentionally working with those suffering from combat trauma. What is sad is that the counseling community recognizes the importance of faith in post-traumatic growth and yet have little to no confidence in local churches being able to care for those that are suffering.
  4. Last one…Philosophy and Education: An Introduction in Christian Perspective by George R. Knight. This book was on the required reading list from my last seminar. It covers philosophic issues in education, traditional and modern philosophies, and a Christian approach to philosophy and education. Christian education also touches on the integration debate because all topics, e.g., math, art, humanity, science, etc, must be understood in a proper relationship with Scripture. For example, Scripture does not speak about brain functions, but does speak about the mind. How then does learning about the brain, as made by God, help us develop educational approaches that contribute to Paul’s call for Christians to renew their minds in Romans 12:2? At the same time, can we recognize postmodern impulses that distort or ignore what is real, what is true, and what is valued as Christians.


While there are other books that could be added to this list for 2018, these are the ones that I have often cited or recommended in my studies and discussions.


2017 Reading List

Here are the book titles, in no particular order, of what was read in 2017 along with a short and informal review. Many books were required for my DEdMin studies.

  • 1560 Geneva Bible. Okay, you’re probably wondering why I put the Bible on my reading list as Christians read the Bible every year. But I put it here because it is a facsimile edition of the 1560 Geneva Bible that includes all the margin notes from reformers like John Calvin and John Knox. It also provides the history of Geneva Bible that is fascinating. Yet, when it came to reading the facsimile edition the initial challenge was to understand the Old English type set used to produce it. Some letters look like a ‘f’ but is pronounced as a ‘s’ while an ‘I’ could either pronounced with a ‘J’ or ‘I’ sound. After a while it becomes a little easier but other challenges remain that include the use of a Hebrew word phonetically spelled out rather than using the meaning. This was noticed in Genesis 3:20 with the use of Heuáh rather than Eve. But don’t let that discourage you from taking the opportunity to read the Geneva Bible. It is an amazing work during an important time in history. The margin notes makes it the first study Bible for the common person in addition to being the Bible that the pilgrims carried to the new lands seeking religious liberty.
  • Morning and Evening by Charles H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. Simply a fantastic devotion and, in my opinion, a great updated version. From time to time I would access the digital version of Spurgeon’s devotion on Logos to read the differences between Spurgeon’s work and this work. I appreciate Alistair Begg’s careful revision of the devotional quality only the Prince of Preachers could deliver.
  • What I Believe: A Combat Chaplain’s Guide to God by Chaplain (Captain) W. Michael Oliver. This book was recommended while visiting a book store in Nashville. As a Veteran, I am looking for books written by Military that have a theological foundation to give to Military as part of our Military ministry where I currently serve. What caught my attention with this book was the table of contents. The author lays out the Biblical Storyline then moves into the Ordo Salutis and the Solas of the reformation. Who uses Ordo Salutis for their chapter naming convention? So I had to read it. Each chapter is short, but we’ll balanced in presenting an overview of the order of salvation easily understood. And if you are interested in reading the reformed view of the Ordo Salutis without a lot of big words, this is the book. And yes, there are various views when it comes to the order of salvation that will impact one’s understanding of the extent of the atonement, predestination, and the effects of sin. Theology matters.


  • The Gospel & Racial Reconciliation from The Gospel for Life Series edited by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker. For a short read, this series of books are theologically engaging with passionate wisdom of rightly caring for and loving our neighbors. The gift of each contributor to the topic of racial reconciliation makes this book, this series, a must read.
  • The Gospel & Same-Sex Marriage from The Gospel for Life Series edited by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker. Again, a strong assembly of contributors makes this book another blessing in the discussion of same-sex marriage today. While one chapter came across as lacking, compared to the other contributors, I would still highly recommend this book and series.
  • The Gospel & Religious Liberty from The Gospel for Life Series edited by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker. This book was read toward the close of 2016, but I included here as I have been reading additional books in this series. Let me just say this first…this book is fantastic! The topic of religious liberty is one that is often set aside for other ‘pressing’ issues. But religious liberty is a pressing issue and this small book is enlightening. Although small, it will help the reader gain a quick understanding to the issues surrounding this topic and why religious liberty is so very important.
  • Safe in the Arms of God: Truth from Heaven about the Death of a Child by John MacArthur. The topic of a child’s death is very challenging, but John MacArthur does an outstanding job in walking the reader through Scripture. While it is easy, and common to proof-text one’s position here, John MacArthur does not take a simplistic, superficial, or provide some super-spiritual response common today, but examines the full council of God’s Word to form a biblical response. Which Dr. MacArthur’s response is along the same lines as Drs. Albert Mohler and Daniel Akin who also tackle this topic.
  • Ministry in The New Marriage Culture edited by Jeff Iorg. The list of contributors quickly places this book as a must read as they have first-hand experiences ministering in the new marriage culture. It quickly became a book recommendation for the staff so they too can be familiarized with this subject. It has contributed to several discussions among the staff on how we prayerfully engage in this discussion.
  • Wounded Spirit: A Biblical Approach to Dealing with the Effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by Douglas J. Carragher. Since the book was written by a retired Service Member for Service Members I was immediately drawn to it, especially since the topic is on PTSD. While I appreciate Dr. Carragher’s work here in bringing awareness to PTSD, I expected more with the title “Biblical Approach.” Although small in size this book continued to deliver small nuggets of insight that led us to purchase two cases to give away as part of our ministry to the Military. Both cases were gone very quickly, which was very revealing of the silent need within our congregation and community. This little book can easily be picked up and tucked in a pocket for later reading.
  • Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word For Life in a Broken World edited by Bob Kellemen and Jeff Forrey. Last year I read A Theology of Biblical Counseling by Heath Lambert and this book by Bob Kellemen and Jeff Forrey is along the same lines, however. Scripture and Counseling has several biblical counselors contributing to the contents including Heath Lambert. It was a great addition to my library as I also purchased the kindle edition.
  • No Quick Fix: Where Higher Life Theology Came From, What It Is, and Why It’s Harmful by Andrew David Naselli. I have heard many of these comments identified by Andrew Naselli, but did not realize the background of where it came from. Andrew Naselli, as the book title indicates, explores how Keswick Theology, or High Life Theology, was formed and who were the leading proponents. I am grateful for Naselli’s study into this topic because I agree that it is harmful. I have had a professing believer once inform me that he was a ‘carnal’ Christian as he tried to convince me to leave the Southern Baptist Convention because he considered it a denomination that emphasizes works-based faith. He embraced his ‘carnal’ Christian position, which was very sad and one that I challenged. This book prepares one to biblically refute this false system.
  • Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Revised and Updated, by Donald S. Whitney. This is the third time I read through Donald Whitney’s book and everything time it brings conviction, learning, and growth. This book is so packed with biblical references and insight that it became our primary textbook for our Spiritual Disciplines class at church. Donald Whitney’s work is thorough and why I read his work (see 2016 Reading List).
  • Habits for Our Holiness: How The Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out by Philip Nation. This book is outstanding and a great addition in the study of Spiritual Disciplines because Philip Nation captures an important point many miss…the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Spiritual disciplines do impact our personal growth, but that personal growth should also impact others. This book was important enough to have both print and kindle editions.
  • Discerning Your Call To Ministry: How to Know For Sure And What To Do About It by Jason K. Allen. I wish this book was around when I experienced my own calling to the ministry. Simply insightful. Today I purchase this book and provide it to men who share that they are sensing a call to the ministry themselves. This book has been tremendously helpful as it guides our conversations on calling and labors in the ministry. Jason Allen’s breakdown of three potential callings in the ministry (i.e., called to minister, called to ministry, and called to the ministry) is very helpful as many view calling in a very narrow sense. I can’t speak highly enough of Dr. Allen’s book and highly recommend a copy be included in every minister’s library.
  • Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work by Robby Gallaty. I enjoy listening to Dr. Gallaty’s passion on discipleship. This book reflects his labors to call the Church back to her Great Commission mandate to make disciples. Dr. Gallaty not only contrasts the differences between Eastern and Western approaches to education, but also provides a historical overview of discipleship. The title Rediscovering Discipleship is exactly what this book is about. But Dr. Gallaty doesn’t just call the Church back to discipleship, he also provides a simple approach to discipleship using the acronym MARCS (Missional, Accountable, Reproducible, Communal, and Spiritual) as a way forward in rediscovering discipleship.

Required and select reading for DEdMin seminars in 2017.

  • How To Read A Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
  • Life In the Spirit: Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective edited by Jeffery P. Greenman and George Kalantzis. I would recommend this book, but with a caveat that the reader approach it critically when the contributors present chapters on historical approaches to spiritual formation.
  • Who Stole My Church? What to Do When the Church You Live in Tries to Enter the Twenty-first Century by Gordon McDonald. Story is told through a fictional church and characters, but feels very much as a non-fiction.
  • The Elements of Style, 4th Edition, by William Stunk Jr. and E.B. White. This book sits besides my desk as I strive to improve on my writing abilities.
  • Being Bright Is Not Enough: The Unwritten Rules of Doctoral Study, 3rd Edition, by Peggy Hawley.
  • Spiritual Leadership, Revised and Expanded, by Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby. The church I serve provides copies of this book to our newly ordained deacons. So when it was on the reading list I was excited to dive into it. The Blackaby’s provide a solid book on spiritual leadership and highly recommended. While I may not align with some of their positions, theologically, this book is excellent and desperately needed today as leadership in the church is often associated with power and control.
  • StandOut 2.0 by Marcus Buckingham. Secular, but good. It is worth reading and taking the assessment.
  • Leading from the Second Chair: Serving Your Church, Fulfilling Your Role, and Realizing Your Dreams by Mike Borem and Roger Patterson. This is a topic that I struggle with as one who is serving in a junior position…more like the tenth or eleventh chair! It was a topic that I was interested in when I heard Dr. Rick Holland speak on this topic during a break-out session during the 2014 For The Church Conference. Highly recommended for those serving in either first or second chairs.
  • Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, 4th Edition, by William and Susan Bridges. Secular, but very good especially as churches seek to revitalize or replant. Many expect people to quickly accept the needed changes, but then wonder why there are problems when the congregation experiences the agreed upon changes. This book looks at the emotional challenges in making a transition and very applicable today.
  • Building Leaders: Blueprints For Developing Leadership at Every Level of Your Church by Aubrey Malphurs Will Mancini. Excellent book on a very important topic for the church today. Excellent books and highly recommended. This book lays out a systematic blueprint for developing leaders. Leaders who do not know how to develop leaders or have a staffed pipeline to develop leaders, this book is for you. Many principles can be applied to any congregation size.
  • Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey by Jim Herrington, Mike Bonem, and James Furr. Highly recommended book. It covers the progress of a association of churches in Texas that sought needed changes to reach the community where they serve.
  • Ministering to Problem People in Your Church: What to Do With Well-Intentioned Dragons by Marshall Shelley. Unfortunately, the topic is a reality in all churches. But don’t let the title of calling congregational members dragons discourage you from reading this book. You will benefit from it.
  • Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need To Succeed in Life by Paul Stanley and Robert Clinton. Excellent book as Stanley and Clinton explore the need for mentoring and the different aspects of mentoring. Highly recommend this book if you are serious about discipleship because there are some relationships that will focus on one being a spiritual mentor rather than a teaching mentor. This books outlines those differences and provides guidance for each.
  • Managing Conflict in the Church by David W. Kale. Good book, but did not glean much from it compared to the others.
  • Catastrophic Crisis: Ministry Leadership in the Midst of Trial and Trajedy by Steve Echols and Allen England. This book was eye opening in that it dealt with topics many churches do not even consider, although they are unfortunately becoming more frequent (e.g., active shooter in the church). This book not only reviews different catastrophic events, but also presents leadership discussion points and reflections. This book made such an impact on me that I have both paper and kindle editions.
  • Antagonists in the Church by Kenneth Haugk. This book was purchased during the seminar based on conversations and recommendations with the professor. A highly recommended book as it covers a topic that many ignore or try not to believe about potential members in their congregation. Unfortunately, this is a frequent occurrence based on conversations I have had this year. While there is still more research needed in the area of what separates an antagonist from a church bully, this book is very helpful in learning how to identify and deal with antagonists in the church.
  • The Teaching Ministry of the Church, 2nd Edition, edited by William R. Yount. Good book and worth reading. The book contains many contributors covering a variety of topics from teaching each age group to selecting and evaluating curriculum for your church.
  • The Reciprocating Self: Human Development in Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition, by Jack O. Balswick, Pamela Ebstyne King, and Kevin S. Reimer. This is a very in-depth examination of human development. While the authors provide expanded research on human development not discussed in the other books, the authors take liberty in developing their theological perspective based on a position not held historically. Critical reading is a must with this book.
  • Nuture that is Christian: Developmental Perspectives on Christian Education edited by James C. Wilhoit and John M. Dettoni. What I appreciate about this book, more than than the others, is presenting individual chapters on the works of Piaget, Kohlberg, Fowler, Erickson, Vygotsky, Perry and Belenky. Anyone interested in their work and how it contributes to Christian education, spiritual development, will benefit from this book.
  • Christian Formation: Integrating Theology and Human Development edited by James R. Estep and Jonathan H. Kim. Another good book to add to one’s library. While I disagree on their paradigmatic approach to integration, this is a very helpful book in the area of Christian formation.
  • Think Biblically: Recovering a Christian Worldview edited by John MacArthur. This book was purchased due to it being referenced to refute the One-Book position written by Taylor B. Jones.
  • Exploring The History and Philosophy of Christian Education by Michael J. Anthony and Warren S. Benson. This book was purchased for additional reading to learn of Church’s historical position when it comes to the integration debate (i.e., No-Book, One-Book, or Two-Book positions). Anthony and Benson cover key figures and their philosophies when it comes to Christian education and integration. Excellent book and highly recommended as they as provide “So What” lessons on why this matters today.

Racism and the Gospel

          After watching and reading what occurred in Charlottesville, VA on August 12th, it reminded me of the fallen nature of man and the importance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was disgusting and evil. Period. The men carrying Tiki torches at night were drawing on the historical images of the KKK solely to instill fear. If their motive was not fear then why at night with torches? Heritage? What southern heritage carries torches at night? If the protest about the removal of a statue was to be peaceful then why bring the shields, gloves, helmets, and sticks? The obvious answer is that this group came prepared for conflict. And why the show of force with open carry arms? I am a supporter of our Second Amendment and have a concealed carry license, but there is a difference in being discreet so to not alarm others and trying to make a point through intimidation. Yes, intimidation. There were men with primary and secondary systems carried in the ready, as a show of force against your fellow Americans, wearing tactical helmets and kit with magazines positioned for economy-of-motion tactical reloads. What were you expecting? What were you trying to prove? Do you view fellow Americans as enemy combatants? As a responsible gun owner and combat Veteran I was repulsed by your arrogance and provocative posture.
          Then there was the plethora of Nazi flags, white supremacist logos, and KKK members in full regalia…nothing but disgusting and evil. And yes, I understand that our First Amendment protects free speech and the right to assemble peaceably, but you came looking for a fight and not discourse. You came to Charlottesville packing helmets, shields, gloves, sticks, and weapons. Which your ideologies are the same as the other hate groups. Sadly, our nation is becoming so divisive that civil discourse with those we disagree with is becoming rare. It is as if our school systems replaced debate classes with octagons, screaming matches, and classes on intimidation tactics, techniques, and procedures. But let us not blame the schools or start pointing fingers at others in an attempt to displace or confuse the true root cause of the problem that occurred in Charlottesville this month. Becuase it was a choice to show up at night and take up Tiki torches with racially charged chanting. It was a choice to show up with helmets, shields, gloves, sticks, Nazi flags, KKK outfits, and weapons. What was really on display in Charlottesville was not a protest over the removal of a statute, although many will use the situation as a catalyst for their agenda, but what was really on display was the fallen condition of man’s heart.
          Biblically, we seen this principle being taught in Matthew 15 when the followers of Jesus Christ were challenged by a group of Pharisees and Scribes on why they did not follow along with the traditions established by their forefathers (Mt 15:1-2). To the Pharisees and Scribes, the followers of Jesus, whom they saw as a trouble maker anyway, were breaking religious requirements established during the second temple period. Besides control, there was also fear of experiencing another judgment if the people once again abandoned God. So the followers of Jesus were seen as being rebellious while the Lord saw the religious leaders as the ones breaking the commandments of God (Mt 15:3). The Lord’s teaching at this moment is important because the implications here not only touch on the topic of food and ceremonial laws, but express the condition of man’s heart and his response to God. Which the Lord responded that it was not what one puts in their mouth that defiles them, but what comes out of one’s mouth that defiles them (Mt 15:10-11). For what comes out of one’s mouth comes from their heart that exposes who they are in their core nature…who they really are (Mt 15:18). The Lord continued teaching that what comes out of one’s mouth is what truly defiles a person (Mt 15:18). Which the word defile comes from the Greek word κοινόω (koinoo) that has a sense of making something unacceptable to God. Thus the English word defile carries a perfect meaning and used in this pericope by the KJV, ESV, NASB, and NIV translation committees. It is what comes out of one’s mouth that exposes a man’s heart (Mt 15:18) that is unacceptable before God.
          But the Lord did not leave his teaching without an explanation. The Lord provided several unquestionable actions that defile a person. And those actions includes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander (Mt 15:19). Read them again…evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander. And while it is not within the scope of this article to further discuss each action, which can be traced throughout Scripture depicting how depraved man’s heart can be. Yet, ask yourself how many of those actions were present in Charlottesville? Evil thoughts, murder, false witness, and slander are the obvious ones. The evil of racism we saw in Charlottesville was not because of some statue, but what was already present in their hearts. The removal of the statue provided an opportunity to express what was already smoldering beneath the surface (Jas 1:14-15).
          And then to see a KKK member displaying a cross on the top of his hood was absolutely disgusting as it presents a heretical view of the Gospel. Many have already written on this and why I won’t go into further details here, but every follower of Jesus Christ should speak out about this. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Good News for every person of every tribe, of every language, and of every nation (Rv 5:9-10). Racism denies this teaching. The police can put up all the barricades they want, but when someone’s heart is bent this far to hate another based on skin color or nationality there is no solution. History teaches us that. While many live peacefully with their neighbors, the only true remedy is the Gospel.
          But before you go sliding Bible verses in your Gospel six-shooter for the next racist just remember that many remain in the snare of the Devil to do his will (2 Tm 2:24-26). Which all of us are sinners who deserve the wrath of God for all of eternity. But praise the Lord for His amazing grace by which we are saved (Eph 2:1-9). We should be amazed that God would even want to rescue a single person because we are all unacceptable….worthless before God (Rom 3:9-18). And through the subsitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ can we be reconciled back to God (2 Cor 5:19-21). How amazing! Through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ our lives are transformed from being a child of wrath to a child of God. From evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander are now forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ. One no longer stands condemned before God, but embraced as an adopted child covered in an imputed rightousness (2 Cor 5:21). As the Apostle Paul wrote, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11-12, ESV). The gift of eternal life as one now born-again (Jn 3:3) with the Holy Spirit of God now abiding in us (Jn 14:17). Not because of anything good in us, but because of how good our God is! It is through this knowledge of the Gospel and the mighty work of God in salvation that the followers of Jesus Christ strive to put off the ways of the old nature and live as a child of God and at peace with each other (Eph 4:17-5:21; Col 3:1-17; 1 Thes 4:3-8). Christians are no longer identified by the ways of the world, but by Jesus Christ (Col 2:6-7).
          The only way to defeat the evil of racism is through the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. For only the LORD God can remove that old heart and create a new heart in a person (Ez 36:26-27). A new heart that loves God and all that He gave to man…His Only Son Jesus Christ, His Spirit, His word, creation, marriage, family, and society. Racism is antithetical to the Gospel because racism seeks to oppress others and destroy society that Jesus Christ died for in order to restore in this age. Therefore racism should have no place among the followers of Jesus Christ in this age as racism will have no place in the age to come.

Reviving a Revival

I truly believe that we are on the verge of another Great Awakening in America!  And I pray that it starts here in Clarksville, Tennessee!  The reason I say this is that there appears to be a gathering of mature Christians who know their assignments, their spiritual gifts, given by God for the expressed purpose of the evangelistic mandate.  Truly, it is an exciting time in Clarksville witnessing what God is doing.  Christians are repenting, unifying, praying and fasting.  The congregation is thirsting for God’s presence!  And there is an expectation that God is about to pour out His Spirit in revival among the congregation followed by a spiritual awakening in our area!


Which the terms revival and spiritual awakening are often used synonymously.  Although many will not agree with me, I believe that they should be viewed as separate terms.  While they are similar in nature, due to the subject of revival and spiritual awakenings being the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life, the nature of revivals in Scripture are that of occurring among the people of God.  While it is not within the scope of this article to explore the various narratives that speak of revivals, what we can acknowledge that this is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.  Historically we can also acknowledge faithful preaching, fasting, and prayer as components associated with both revivals and spiritual awakenings.  With the constants known the objects of the Holy Spirits work can be distinguished as: 1) the people of God who are revived from a lethargic spiritual condition, and 2) “natural person[s]” who are spiritual awakened to the things of God leading to godly repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (1 Cor 2:14).


When it comes to revivals today there is a common thought that they are an extended service occurring among an existing congregation.  Generally, a revival service can last anywhere from three to five days.  Again, the emphasis for a revival is that occurring among the people of God.[1]  And when revivals are promoted in the community a revival service can, and normally does attract, a larger-than-normal gathering of Christians who come to hear the evangelist, or guest preacher.  Certain markers like the sanctuary filled with people, decisions for Christ being made – either for salvation or renewal – will bring leaders to indicate that a revival has occurred among God’s people.  But is that what really happened?  The reason for the question is because by next Sunday the spiritual revival that just occurred seems to have faded as if there was no real movement of the Holy Spirit among His people.  Biblically and historically we know that when God shows up people are changed, lives are impacted.  But in our era of self-promotion and pressure to produce we continue to wear a veil to hide the fact that when God’s presence didn’t descend while still proclaiming a spiritual revival had taken place.


Biblically, when God’s holy presence descends upon His people the results are a smaller-than-normal assembly.  What occurred on Pentecost (Acts 2) can be viewed as a revival; however, this was a unique day in God’s salvific plan.  Pentecost could also be considered a spiritual awakening through the democratization of the Holy Spirit upon those present that indicated God’s salvific plan with the birth of the Church.  Pentecost was truly a unique day in redemptive history.  Caution is needed when viewing Pentecost as a continued pattern for today (recommend Iain H. Murray’s book Pentecost – Today? regarding this subject).  Two episodes that stand out in my opinion reflecting this understanding of a smaller-than-normal assembly can be seen in the Old and New Testaments.  From the Book of Exodus we read that all of Israel was gathered at Mt. Sinai (Ex 19:11) where they saw the power of God upon Mt. Sinai (Ex 19:17) that terrified them (Ex 20:18-21).  The people of God drew back and wanted Moses to go forward for them (Ex 20:19).  And with the Mosaic Covenant confirmed only a select few were allowed to gather closer (Ex 24), but only Moses went before His presence.  When Moses was with the LORD God the people compelled Aaron to make two golden idols for them to worship (Ex 32) reflecting how quickly the assembly turned from following the LORD God.  What followed was a reduction in numbers among the people of God as the sons of Levi followed the command of Moses and killed three thousand men (Ex 32:25-29).  The holiness of God was and is not to be mocked by His people.  God takes His holiness seriously.  And throughout the Old Testament we are reminded that God has preserved for Himself a remnant (Is 10:20-23; Jer 23:3; Mi 2:12; 7:18; Zec 8:11-15) that was later reiterated by the Apostle Paul in Romans (Rom 9:27; 11:5).


In the New Testament the Lord Jesus Christ had a large gathering of followers at the beginning of His earthly ministry.  But when His preaching became too difficult, many of those who followed Him left (Jn 6:25-66) leaving only the twelve (Jn 6:67).  In the Epistles there are accounts of those among the Churches who are turning away from Christ (Gal 1:6), bringing in false teachings (Gal 3:1; Phil 3:2; 2 Tim 3:6; 2 Pt 2:1-3; 1 Jn 2:26), and departing from the faith to follow after other teachings (1 Tm 4:1).  The Apostle John taught that not everyone among the churches are followers of Jesus Christ (1 Jn 2:19), which echoes the Lord’s parable of the weeds (Mt 13:24-30, 36-43).  While these examples do not speak of revival or spiritual awakenings, they do indicate that there are those currently among the congregations that are not saved.  And when the holy presence of God descends upon His people there will either be repentance and conversion or a departure from His presence (Jn 3:20).


It was easy in the beginning for Israel to follow the LORD God when He led them out of captivity.  But when He began to speak it caused many to pull away.  And when Jesus, God incarnate, came many felt comfortable around His willingness to heal and feed them.  But when He began to speak hard truths about following God many could no longer bear His words.  Why?  Because His words pierce our body and soul.  He knows everything about us.  Nothing is hidden from His ever piercing and ever watching eyes.  And sin-hardened hearts do not want to be exposed to truth (Jn 3:3).  A true revival among God’s people will have the markers of genuine repentance and/or conversion among the existing congregation while the other marker of decline will be noted as some scurry to find shade.  And with the modern era church capitulating worship for successful business models, a decline in attendance is not something many congregations or leaders desire.  It is not good for business so-to-speak as attendance numbers are down.  But when you think about it is that really a bad thing?  True revivals strengthen the Church spiritually and brings unity within the body.  Sin is exposed or removed as God prepares His people for joining Him in Gospel focused work among the community.  Genuine revivals disrupt the status quo of church business and brings the people of God back in-line with what He is doing…reconciling the world back to Himself (2 Cor 5:18-21)!


A spiritual awakening is different because, well…it is an awakening to the things of God by those who are spiritually dead (Eph 2:1), separated from God according to their sins (Is 59:2).  And when God pours out His Spirit upon a community, a city, or a region where the word of God is faithfully preached there is a great awakening.  In the Old Testament one can’t help but to think of the Book of Jonah and in the New Testament we read about the beginnings of the Church at Pentecost.  And throughout history we read of spiritual awakenings that have occurred in Africa, Europe, and here in the United States of America.  The Holy Spirit of God descended powerfully that the hearts and minds of the lost were opened to His word faithfully preached that produced godly sorrow and repentance leading to salvation.  Lives were changed.  Lives were redeemed.


God’s movement among revivals and spiritual awakenings were not planned calendar events or products of man’s ingenuity.  Revivals and spiritual awakening are a supernatural work of God according to His timing and His plan in redemptive history.  Pentecost was not planned by the Lord’s disciples.  He told them to remain in Jerusalem and wait (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:7-8).  And when God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are properly understood there is nothing wrong in scheduling a revival because it reflects the heart of God’s people desiring His presence.  As Christians we long to experience a powerful movement of God among us and in our communities.  Planning a revival is our way of making this known.  We pray that His Spirit would revive our lethargic spiritual bones and give life to the spiritually dead in our communities.  We need a revival among our congregations.  We need a spiritual awakening among the nations.


That is why I am excited about what is occurring in Clarksville, Tennessee.  We are taking time to devote ourselves in getting right before God.  Preparing ourselves in anticipation of God doing amazing work among us and through us in our community.  And our leaders present a wonderful balance of truth in God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.  Hundreds of members coming together during February for devotion, prayer meetings, prayer walking, and congregational fasting.  Pastors, men of God, faithfully preaching sound doctrine depending on the work of the Holy Spirit rather than developed practices that appeal on emotional excitements.  May God hear our pleas for revival and may He pour our His Spirit in a powerful way!


Let me end this article as it began by stating again that I truly believe God is at work in Clarksville, Tennessee!  Come Lord Jesus!  Send Your Holy Spirit for we thirst for You!





Works Cited:

Beougher, Timothy K. “Revivals, Revivalism.” In Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions. Edited by A. Scott Moreau, Harold Netland, and Charles van Engen. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000. Logos.


Murray, Iain H. Pentecost – Today? The Biblical Basis for Understanding Revival. Bath, England: Bath Press, 1998.


______. Revival & Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858. East Peoria, IL: Versa Press, 2009.




[1] Timothy K. Beougher, “Revivals, Revivalism,” in Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, ed. Moreau, A. Scott, Harold Netland, and Charles van Engen (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), Logos.  Timothy Beougher does use the term revival as a synonym for spiritual awakening.  He also uses the term revivalism as synonymous with evangelism which is the result of a revived, or spiritually awakened congregation.  Beougher clearly defined his terms; however, my hesitation is the potential confusion revival and revivalism can create.  Iain H. Murray, in Revival and Revivalism, addresses the term revivalism as the approach, measures, or techniques used to produce revivals.  I lean towards Murray’s definition of revivalism because the term would indicate the philosophy, or practice associated with revivals.

Pursuing Godliness

Over the past year there appears to be a resurgence among Pastors-Theologians with discussions about godliness and personal holiness.  I am grateful for these discussions as it appears that a large segment of Christianity today ignores any call to personal holiness.  Some oppose this topic, as if it is opposed to grace, labeling it moralism or legalism.  But these conversations are desperately needed to shed light onto a topic that pursuing godliness and personal holiness are not in opposition to the Gospel.  Grace is what sets in motion one’s ability to live a godly life!


Godliness comes from the Greek word εὐσέβεια/eusebeia that can has a sense of piety, or religious devotion to God, while holiness comes from the Greek word ἁγιασμός/hagiasmos that has a sense of sanctification.[1]  Therefore, to pursue godliness reflects an effort of a follower of Jesus Christ to be, well, a follower of Jesus Christ striving to observe all that the Lord taught (Mt 28:18-20).  Sanctification, on the other hand, is the supernatural work of God, coupled with His Word, transforming the believer more into the image of His Son (Jn 17:17; Rom 8:29).  The supernatural work of God does not stop at conversion, but continues to change a believer throughout their life as they grow spiritually from little children, to young men, to fathers (1 Jn 2:12-14).  Sanctification and godliness move along in the same stream of Scripture.  Trying to divide the two is like trying to divide imperative statements (what we do in Christ) from the indicative statements (who we are in Christ).[2]  The more one learns about the Lord through His teachings, the more one should love the Lord.  And the more one loves the Lord, the more one desires to follow His teachings.


The problem that all of us face is that we are not born godly or holy.  We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23) with Scripture describing man as the sons of disobedience, the children of wrath (Eph 2:2-3).  Our fallen and natural state does not comprehend Christian godliness, or even the spiritual things of the Lord (1 Cor 2:14).  Therefore, every one of us are desperately in need of the spiritual rebirth that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about (Jn 3:3).  And that spiritual rebirth can only be brought through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.  Without being born again one’s life does not take on any different and new qualities.  One might grow in wisdom, or even become more humble over time, but this is not an indication of salvation and walking in the newness of life (Rom 6:4; 8:4).  This newness of life is brought about through the work of the Holy Spirit who is now abiding in every believer.  The work of sanctification, positional and progressive (Rom 5:1; Jn 17:17; 1 Thes 4:3; 2 Thes 2:13), is of God alone and continues throughout a believer’s life until glorification (1 Cor 15:52-53). Without the abiding Spirit of Jesus Christ and His power in our life, no one would pursue godliness or experience the work of sanctification.


Godliness and sanctification has nothing to do with one’s former life, since one is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1), but from the renewed life that one now has in Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul makes this abundantly clear in Titus 3:3 that, “we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (ESV).  Yet, continuing in Titus 3 verses 4 through 7 we learn a wonderful reality of one’s new position in Jesus Christ through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit.  There is a change supernaturally brought about by God.  Think about the Apostle Paul for a moment… missionary, church planter, and Pastor to Pastors, and he describes himself as once foolish, slave to various passions, and disobedient to the ways of God.  But through the Lord’s saving grace Paul’s identity, his character, his very nature as a person was changed.  While every Christian will not have a Damascus Road experience like the Apostle Paul, there should still be a change.  The regenerative work of God changes one’s identity, character, and their very nature.  They are no longer the children of wrath walking in darkness but the children of God.  Does this mean that a Christian will be sinless, perfect?  No.  Scripture is quite clear on that too, but that is another discussion.


Pursuing godliness should be a present reality for all Christians.  A brief summation of this biblical reality can be seen in just a few passages of Scripture that Christians are to renew their mind (Rom 12:1-2; Col 3:2), put away the things of their former life (Eph 5:15-21; Col 3:5-17), and walk according to the Spirit of God (Gal 5:16).  To follow Jesus, to be His disciple, means that we are to be focused on the things of Jesus in mind, body, and spirit.  Pursuing godliness is not because a Christian believes it will earn them favor before God, but because they are growing spiritually in Christ.  When one grows spiritually they will naturally pursue godliness as a child of God who is now walking and growing in the Spirit.  One cannot separate the two biblically.  Again, to separate the two presents a lopsided view of the Gospel that one can be positionally in Christ and yet continue to live for their own desires.  But caution is needed here too.  Just because one appears to be pursuing godliness does not necessarily reflect the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.  Pharisees were notorious in looking religious before others.


Yet, Scripture is clear that godliness can be pursued in this life (1 Tm 6:11) and that we can train ourselves for godliness (1 Tm 4:7).  This is not in opposition to grace.  This is because of grace!  And to anchor this point there is one more text that needs to be addressed.  This text comes from the Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus as he addresses the topic of teaching sound doctrine.  It is an amazing reality when one thinks about it because through salvation the grace of God is now training us (Ti 2:11-12)!  The Spirit of the Lord, who has taken up residence inside us, is now training us to pursue self-controlled, upright, and godly (εὐσεβῶς/eusebos) lives in this present age (Ti 2:12-14)!  And when you connect this biblical truth with the fact that that Christians are not left as orphans, but have the promised Holy Spirit of God now abiding in and with us, there is a sudden realization of where our strength and our guidance to pursue godliness comes from!  Jesus!


To close this down, let us reflect upon the inspired words of the Apostle Peter who wrote, “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness…” (2 Pet 1:5-10).  And the Apostle Paul who wrote to the church in Colossae to, “set you minds on things that are above” (Col 3:2), “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Col 3:5), and “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col 3:12).  I could go on, but that is not the point here.  Scripture is very clear that all Christians, especially men called to the work of the Gospel ministry, should be actively pursuing godliness, empowered by and through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, in this present day.  As a Christian, as a minster of the Gospel, there should be no question as to whom you belong!




[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), Logos.


[2] Heath Lambert, “Using The Epistles In The Personal Ministry Of The Word,” in Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word For Life In A Broken World, ed. Bob Kellemen and Jeff Forrey (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 372.