Book Review: How to Listen So People Will Talk

“God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak.” While we find this well-known saying humorous, the reality behind it is honest. On more than one occasion, we find our mouths are open and our ears effectively shut. Even when we do listen, we often do so with the intent of responding. The issue is such actions kill conversations, if not friendships and marriages. What should be clear: this is no small matter. With the problem identified, how do we go about searching for and finding a solution? Becky Harling, a certified John Maxwell speaker, coach, and trainer, seeks to lead us down the trail to the answer in her new book How to Listen So People Will Talk: Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connections.

In ten chapters, Mrs. Harling prods the reader to become a better listener by studying “biblically based, practical listening skills” (Harling 20). Throughout the book she emphasizes the importance of asking questions, learning to intentionally listen, and addressing the necessary heart matters. At the end of each chapter are practical exercises to strengthen your listening skills, with sections covering listening to God, listening to your heart, and listening to others.

This book is an immensely practical help for anyone who desires to grow in their listening skills. Harling does not write in the abstract. Her personal stories throughout the chapters and specific calls to application will challenge the reader to put into practice what they’re learning.

Yet, for Harling to hit the mark on the ‘what’ of listening, she does not fully draw out the ‘why’. She calls the reader to an others-oriented view of conversation but falls short in pointing them to a robust Christ-centered motivation. To be sure, she uses terms like in Christ, Christian, and Christ-likeness in her descriptions to the reader. The hole in her discussion, though, is the principles laid out assume the gospel. Each chapter contains good principles, but these good principles are given without rooting them in the gospel. Yes, we need to become like Jesus by learning to grow in our listening, as Harling states. However, before we can see Jesus as our example, we must trust in Him as Lord and Savior. We do not begin with what we do in imitating Jesus; we must start with knowing what Jesus did to save us. The author herself makes a great point when she says, “it’s impossible to be a good listener without developing a humble spirit” (Harling 29). When does this development start? When we receive a new heart by repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. To summarize, How to Listen So People Will Talk provides practical depth but lacks gospel depth. This book will help you learn to be better a listener even while it may miss the mark on telling you at the most foundational level why you should be.

I received this book for free from Bethany House for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

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Book Review: A Small Book About A Big Problem

I don’t tend to think of myself as an angry person. I don’t burst out in yelling and my face rarely, if ever, turns red when I don’t get my way. So, when I picked up A Small Book About a Big Problem by Edward T. Welch, I was anticipating a read I would recommend to others who struggle with this problem. What I encountered was a diagnostic of my own anger problem. A Small Book About A Big Problem was a book for me too!

In 50 short meditations, Counselor Welch does the work of a spiritual surgeon. He first sits us down and lays out the depth of the problem. If anyone thinks they are exempt, the meditation for Day 6 on the many faces of anger will reveal we all face this problem in some manner. Before he takes us back for surgery, we are given hope. Although this problem exists, there is a solution. The meditation for Day 7 starts the patient down the path of wisdom in fighting anger and finding patience and peace. The theme of humility throughout this book makes clear this work is not an easy task. The scalpel of the gospel will strike us because it will expose us and our need for the Healer, Jesus Christ. Unless one has confessed their sin to God and professed faith in Christ, they will not be able to follow on what Welch has for them. Even for the Christian, these short meditations will present a challenge. It cannot be done apart from the empowering and enabling work of the Holy Spirit. As Dr. Welch points us back to Scripture, we not only see our hearts exposed but we find hope in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A Small Book About A Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by Edward T. Welch lives up to its title. The strategy of the book is to read one meditation each day for 50 days, to interact and engage with the questions posed, and to begin sharing this conversation with someone else (Welch 4). While I do wish the book would have addressed more elaborately what righteous anger looks like (although, as the book points out, most of the time our anger is unrighteous), Dr. Welch performs a thorough work, examining the problem, exposing each one’s heart, and encouraging transformation in the gospel. I recommend A Small Book About A Big Problem to anyone who knows they have an anger problem and to anyone who believes they don’t.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Book Announcement: Are We United?

October 31, 2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Reformation. Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenburg Castle Church on October 31, 1517 put in motion a call for the Church to return to biblical truth and an exhortation to submit to Scripture alone in reforming believers and the church in belief and practice, namely how one is saved. The events of the Reformation drew the dividing line between Protestants and Catholics. The reaction of the Catholic church to the Reformation made clear Protestants and Catholics were not unified in the gospel. One was in line with the gospel and the other was out of step and headed toward destruction. The Reformation, resting on the authority of Scripture alone, revealed Protestants who believed salvation was found in trusting Christ alone by grace through faith alone were those in line with the gospel.Yet, today there seems to be a call for unity between Protestants and Catholics. The problem is not that we stand together on social issues. Protestants should stand beside their Catholic friends to speak for the unborn and to care for the poor. However, does this mean Protestants and Catholics ought to unite in the gospel? Pastor Brandon Sutton answers this question is his new book, Are We United? The Question for Protestants and Catholics. Are We United? looks to the truth of God’s Word and asks whether Protestants and Catholics are united in the gospel. Pastor Sutton examines the material cause of the Reformation, justification, and the formal cause of the Reformation, authority. 500 years after the birth of the Reformation, we still need to answer this question clearly. It makes all the eternal difference. May this book serve you well in pointing you to The Book. Purchase your copy HERE! (If you use BOOKSHIP17, you will receive 10% off and free shipping; discount ends October 9!)

Props to the Profs: Dr. Charles Ware and Hosea Baxter

Note from Theron: This post is the third in a three-part series giving tribute to professors whose teachings and lives have been a godly example to my life and ministry. (The first post honored Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski and can be found here, and the second post honored Dr. Mark Eckel and can be found here). This last post in the series gives tribute to Dr. Charles Ware and Professor Hosea Baxter.

The famous line goes, “Ignorance is bliss”. The problem is such a statement fails to tell the truth. Ignorance is not bliss. Especially in my case. My ignorance led me to respond with a heart of apathy. That is until God brought me to Crossroads Bible College. The Lord used one particular course to open my ignorant eyes and expose my apathetic heart. The course? Culture, Race, and the Church.

The semester I took the course, Spring 2011, Dr. Charles Ware and Professor Hosea Baxter served as co-teachers of the course. Reflecting back on my time learning, I was the lone Caucasian student with three African-American classmates and two African-American professors. I am grateful to the Lord for how that turned out. The course revealed racism in historical perspective while also pointing out how the church has been guilty of racism as well. Culture, Race, and the Church also showed how racism is not an issue of the past; it still goes on today, even in subtle ways. Observing the events of the last couple of years, Dr. Ware and Professor Baxter’s assessment was and is on-point.

However, this Bible college did not just highlight the problem facing our culture and facing our churches. It put forth the solution. The resolution is found in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. To work toward racial reconciliation we must engage in what Dr. Ware calls GRACE Relations. We must understand how the gospel of God’s grace impacts our discussion on race. For me, I’ve learned the gospel calls for me consider others before myself (Philippians 2:3-4). To imitate the attitude of Jesus, I must pray for the Holy Spirit to enable me to display humility in my conversations, recognizing the privilege I may receive unknowingly as a white while my black brothers and sisters in Christ receive suspicious looks or more, simply because of their skin color. I pray I would listen to their concerns. My stance is not to a political party. My posture is to stand with my black brothers and sisters in Christ. We are together in Christ. We are one in Christ. I thank Dr. Charles Ware and Professor Hosea Baxter for instructing me from God’s Word. A heart once containing apathy is now a heart ready for action in GRACE relations!

Book Review: Counseling Under the Cross

The Babylon Bee, a Christian News Satire site, recently ran a humorous article titled, “New Martin Luther-Shaped Amazon Echo Will Rudely Answer All Your Theology Questions”. While the news story was purposely fake (thus, satire), this sentiment of Luther is real and familiar. The portrayal of Luther is the staunch Reformer, the one who spoke out against the corruption of the Catholic church and stood up for what he believed being convinced by Scripture and conscience. The result was the start of a Reformation. Yet, to depict Martin Luther only in this light would not serve Martin Luther, church history, or us well. What will serve everyone well is Dr. Bob Kellemen’s new book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life.

Dr. Kellemen opens his book informing the reader, “Luther, the pastor and shepherd, inspired Luther the Reformer” (Kellemen 6). Dr. Bob then takes the next 11 chapters leading all Christians to follow in Martin Luther’s footsteps of applying the gospel. The book is sectioned off into two parts, the first painting a portrait of the Reformer and the second laying out the practices of the Reformer. In section one, Bob Kellemen observes what shaped Martin Luther’s pastoral counseling, from his deep and despairing trials (chapter 1) to finding peace with God in the cross-shaped theology (chapter 2). The second section moves from what shaped Martin Luther’s pastoral counseling to the shape of Martin Luther’s pastoral counseling. In counseling through the lens of the cross (chapter 3), Dr. Kellemen shares firsthand accounts and real-life vignettes of Martin Luther applying the fourfold historic Christian approach to pastoral care, the theology and methodology of sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding (chapters 4–11).

Counseling Under the Cross by Bob Kellemen is a timely resource for any biblical counselor who desires to let Scripture reform their life, ministry, and counseling. In this well-researched, easy-to-follow book, the Christian will be encouraged by Martin Luther’s compassionate heart and gospel-centered approach to pastoral counseling, enlightened by exposing the schemes of the devil and cropping Christ back into the picture to comfort the suffering and confront the sinning, and enriched to believe the gospel indicatives and apply the gospel imperatives. Bob Kellemen opens the book by sharing how Martin Luther reformed his life and ministry and closes the book engaging the reader to draw out particular implications to apply to their own lives. The one who reads and heeds what is found in Counseling Under the Cross will be competent to robustly counsel in Christ alone and know deeper the love of God in Christ.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, click here.

Props to the Profs: Dr. Mark Eckel

Note from Theron: This post is the second in a three-part series giving tribute to professors whose teachings and lives have been a godly example to my life and ministry. (The first post honored Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski and can be found here). This second post gives tribute to Dr. Mark Eckel.

The teacher who taught me how to think, not what to think. The instructor who impressed upon me the importance of incarnational ministry. The moviegoer who ruined watching movies for me, in the best kind of way. The practitioner, always connecting truth and wisdom to life. This is how I would describe Dr. Mark Eckel and the impact he and his teaching has had on my life.

My first Bible college course was taught by Mark Eckel. My second favorite course during my undergraduate, Introduction to Philosophy, was led by Mark Eckel (for the curious, my favorite course was Hermeneutics!). In this course on philosophy, God used Dr. Eckel’s teaching to stir in me a passion for thinking deeply and sharing the truth. However, that semester in his class was only the beginning. In the Lord’s providence, I would receive the blessing to learn under Mark Eckel again in seminary. His personal style allowed for much discussion in thinking through cultural analysis and engagement. These discussions were not abstract for Dr. Eckel. He was living out the truth on a public university campus he was teaching us in a seminary course.

He has been my professor. I am grateful to call him my friend. Dr. Mark Eckel now serves as the president of Comenius Institute, interacting with students on the IUPUI campus to discuss where Christian wisdom and college life meet. I can assure you the students who come in contact with this man are blessed. In his life, Dr. Mark Eckel’s own words ring true: Legacy is not what you leave behind; legacy is who you leave behind.

Props to the Profs: Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski

Note from Theron: This post is the first in a three-part series giving tribute to professors whose teachings and lives have been a godly example to my life and ministry. This first post honors Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski.

A Passion for the Word

2011 served as a year of spiritual growth. However, my sophomore year of Bible college began with a struggle. I had begun to take a hard look at my spiritual life. My time in the Word of God seemingly had run dry, where I merely spent time in the Scriptures for college assignments. This time in the spiritual desert forced me to evaluate the genuineness of my Christian faith. During my time of introspection, the Lord brought me to confess of my spiritual dryness and ignited a passion within my heart for His Word.

One of the main means God used to give me a deeper passion for His Word came through Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski. In the Spring of 2012, I registered for a course in hermeneutics, which is the science and art of interpreting the Bible. The professor teaching the course: Nicholas Piotrowski. Little did I know how much this course would transform my study of the Bible, and I could never have expected how God would use this professor in my life. The Lord used that Hermeneutics course in 2012 to ignite a passion in my heart to know and study the Word of God, seeing how all of Scripture points to Jesus Christ (Luke 24:25–27, 44–47). Moreover, His providence blessed me with taking at least one course per semester with Dr. Piotrowski throughout the remainder of my undergraduate studies. Nicholas Piotrowski became much more than a professor. He was and is someone I consider a dear friend and mentor.

Entrusted with Teaching the Word

Yet, he is more than a friend and mentor. Now, I call him my boss. I have for the last two years. Up until this summer, I served as his assistant at the Bible college. While my tenure in the staff role ended in June, Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski remains my superior. He is the Associate Dean of Academics and I am entering my second school year as Adjunct Professor at Crossroads Bible College. One of the courses I have the responsibility and pleasure of teaching for the second straight year: Hermeneutics. The course which transformed my life and ministry, taught by a man who continues to bless my life, has been entrusted to me. What a call! As I prepare to teach another group of students this semester how to study the Bible, I reflect and thank God for Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski!