Category Archives: Books

A New Book! Expressions: Church Poems

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This year, as resolutions swirled in my head and evaluations of the previous year set me into a constant state of pensive self-examination, I wanted to challenge myself to write and complete a book of poetry and art in one week. I knew the difficulty that it would entail and I knew the joy of completing the process.

2018 seemed like a marathon through the mud. As a pastor, I trudged a great deal and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwas often fighting my own depression and difficulties as I helped to shoulder the burdens of others. It was a good year, but it was a long and exhausting year too. We came through it tired but victorious and ready to run some more.

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As I sat, laboring to understand and process 2018, I found a need to express. I needed to express my love for the church. I needed to express the wrestling with depression in a real and spiritual manner. I needed to express the “striving together” that is the church community. I needed to lay down on paper the weight of what my community has carried together. All the imperfections and struggle to understand grace.

All the pains and joys of community and weight of self. I needed to express them all. I needed to express the song of the church. So, I set out to draw a few sketches and lay down a few verses.

“Expressions” is the result. (Credit to Logan Doak for the title.)

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Expressions: Poems of the Church is available for $7 on Amazon.com and Lulu.com

 

I hope you will enjoy this work. It is short, 48 pages, and is a square shape. It is intended to be a book of pictures and poetry that you will pick up and read once in a while. The art is simple and quick sketches that were drawn in a week (with the exception of “Halos of the Church” and “Death to Life,” which were drawn in 2018 when processing some difficulties). I have endeavored to exalt Christ in the church through this work. Please use it for the gospel ministry.

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Two quick encouragements:

Challenge yourself. Challenge yourself to do something. Something difficult. Last year I was enjoying my morning coffee while I watched the birds flit and flutter on my porch. Inspired I wrote a short poem and then started drawing some pictures. At the same time, I was working through the book of Ephesians for my second published work. I challenged myself to write a short book, complete with artwork and be ready to publish it in a 7 day period. The result was “The Bird’s Psalm.” This year I wrote a little more… next year I will challenge myself to do the same.

Use your talents for the Kingdom of God. I am not a great artist, but I have some talent. I am not a great poet, but I can write a poem or two. I am not a great writer, but I can write stuff down in an organized form. The Lord has blessed me with some ability, it is my responsibility to use that for the Kingdom. What are your talents? Are you using them for the Kingdom? I hope you see through my work that you CAN do something for the Kingdom. I hope you will be inspired to do something… something worthwhile. Something for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thinking Through Ephesians! A free pdf sample

About 16 years ago I was asked to teach the college class at Highland Baptist Church in Waco, TX on a Sunday morning. It was a large crowd of roughly 1,000 students. My brother was the college pastor associate and had recommended me to teach. I had preached and led small group Bible studies before. I had spoken to moderately large churches, but never a crowd of such significant size and never without a strategic outline or material to follow. I called my brother and asked his advice. He said, “pick a passage of Scripture and teach what it says. No more, no less. Just study what it says and teach it.”

b7a26-bible-on-a-pulpitI taught on Ephesians 5:15-20. Teaching that passage began a mountain-top journey through Ephesians for me. It fast became my favorite book of the Bible. I began to trudge through the text verse by verse, line by line, phrase by phrase until I grasped everything I could. Sometimes I’d get stuck on one verse and write page after page. Sometimes I’d sit on the concepts of the book for a month before I penned a word. All the time, I sought to know Jesus deeply and engage His word and work in my heart and life.

 

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For roughly 14 years I would return to Ephesians every few months and write a little more. Then, a little more than two years ago I was challenged to blog more often. I decided that I would blog every day of the week save Sunday. I started to blog each day through the book of Ephesians, taking the notes I had collected and put them into bite-sized chunks for anyone interested. Somewhere within chapter two, my brother Jeff (who happens to be a great author! you can check out his stuff here: Jeff’s stuff), told me I should consider compiling them into a book.

Cover smallSo, for the last year and a half, my wife and I have edited this work for your joy. This book is the result of a 16-year devotional walk through Ephesians. It has been a delight and joy to write. I hope it is a joy to read as well.

For a free sample of a few chapters and the intro, click here.

To purchase through Amazon: https://goo.gl/fwKDxN

To purchase through Lulu.com:  https://goo.gl/yCoQJk

Finish the Book! 3 tips to becoming a reader and a list of where to start!

“Leaders are readers!” – Harry Truman. Leaders read books that engage their mind and challenge them to be better. Likewise, good pastors read books. Books about theology, history, practice, church ministry, and the like flood the desk of a good pastor. Good pastors will try to read a variety of books from a variety of perspectives and they will strive to understand viewpoints that are well beyond their personal opinions.

I can remember seeing the library of a particular pastor I had come to admire. He had three small rooms lined wall to wall with books, categorized according to topic. In addition to the walls lined with books, he had free-standing shelving that filled the empty space with more books. He was asked how many of these books he had actually read. He casually said, “Every book, cover to cover. With the exception of the reference works and commentaries.” The reference works and commentaries lined one wall of one of the three rooms. Then, pointing to a stack of about 10 books, he added, “Oh! And that stack on my desk. I’m reading those now.” Such a wealth of knowledge had made him a powerful pastor whose knowledge was used by the Holy Spirit to touch the hearts of all he came in contact with.

Contrast the aforementioned pastor with a particular pastor I knew in seminary. Having found him in the library, I asked if he had completed the assigned reading for the class. “Sure. I mean I got the gist of it.” Slightly appalled I asked for clarification. His response: “Oh, I didn’t actually finish the books. I mostly just skimmed them until I got the idea.” I didn’t understand! I was unaware that we could just skim a book and say we got the material down. Over the next few weeks of coursework, my friend began to fall behind in the class discussion. His lack of knowledge began to show and his ignorance of the subject matter drove him further and further into unengaged silence in the class. I cannot help but wonder the effect that failing to finish the books that are designed to equip him for the ministry has had on his pastoral ministry.

Don’t get me wrong. Many pastors are descent pastors in spite of not being strong readers. They love people and engage well. However, one cannot help but wonder how much more powerful they would be if they were disciplined readers. Reading is a matter of training your mind. I am assuming that most pastors are reading their Bibles in significant measure. If that assumption is wrong, then those pastors need to leave the ministry. In addition to the Scripture, pastors would benefit from reading other books as well.

I was not always a reader. I preferred a ball and a hoop on a blacktop over a book in a chair. Yet, God drove deep into my soul the understanding of my own need for discipleship and the wealth of spiritual discipleship available to me in books. As I began to pastor I started to realize that godly men had laid their souls out on page for me! So I began to read the works of Ravenhill, Edwards, Spurgeon, Tozer, Piper, Bonhoeffer, and Murray. I experienced in those authors words that have accelerated my spiritual growth. So, read dear brother! Read! If you are not a reader, here are three tips for getting started.

  1. Finish the book. There is nothing more tragic than reading 3/4th of an author’s labor only to quit near the end. Finish the work! If you have ever read the likes of AW Tozer or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, you know that the last chapters are paramount to understanding their efforts. Tozer particularly tends to put his greatest and most passionate applications at the end of his works. Read to the end, or you may deprive yourself of the best part.
  2. Vary your reading. I try to read one book that is an easy read (usually about ministry practice), one book that is a heavy read (usually theology), and one book for fun (often a book I’ve already read). In this way, I’ll feed myself a well-rounded diet of thought. Further, vary your perspectives. Read the heretics. Even if you spend the whole book fighting with them, read them. As a pastor, you will find it invaluable to be able to explain to your congregation members why you disagree with prominent authors. Do not be afraid of the heretic, they are here to sharpen you.
  3. Start small. I sometimes find myself reading 4-6 books at a time. If you’re not used to reading and engaging texts, don’t do that. Start small. Read one book at a time. Make your first work something easy but engaging. I’d suggest something from the Christian living section of your bookstore. As you get your feet under you as a reader. Read something heavier. Perhaps a puritan? Maybe something by Tozer? Go ahead! Dive in! But start small.

If you are not used to reading consistently and finishing the whole book here is a short list of books to get you started. I’ve broken them into four phases to kind of stair step you into reading larger more weighty works. Hopefully these help.

Phase One: Tuning your mind to enjoy reading spiritual material.

  1. Crazy Love by Francis Chan
  2. More than a Carpenter by McDowell
  3. Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron
  4. The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

Phase two: Learning to engage deeper (a little).

  1. Don’t Waste Your Life by Piper
  2. Basic Christianity by John Stott.
  3. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
  4. Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris

Phase Three: Moving Towards personal practice

  1. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
  2. The Bravehearted Gospel by Eric Ludy
  3. Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
  4. Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray

Phase Four: Enjoying the journey of reading for worship.

  1. Heaven by Randy Alcorn
  2. The Holiness of God by RC Sproul
  3. Living in Light of Eternity by KP Yohannan
  4. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Bird’s Psalm: FREE PDF

Hey everybody!

bird42This past week I wanted to challenge myself to write and publish a poem, complete with personal artwork, within the frame of 5 days… So I worked on sketches and layout and finished the book on Tuesday! It’s short, 32 pages. It is a product of my own worship times and was a delight to create. Enjoy a free PDF copy below. You can purchase hard copies online at amazon and lulu. (links below)

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You can get a Free PDF of the book by clicking here: thebirdpsalm85kdpnew.

If you’d like a paperback copy they are available

for $6 in 8.5×8.5 inches at Amazon (here)

For $4.80 in 7.5×7.5 inches Lulu.com (here).

I hope this short work is inspiring to you. it was fun to make.bird52

Re-Created. My first book!

ReCreated_4This is my first book! It is a walk through the gospel of John. Writing this work has been one of the greatest joys of my life and I hope it serves to advance the Gospel!

The Gospel of John has long been my favorite of the four gospels. Its unique perspective and complex rhythm have captured my heart and drawn me to a deeper understanding of Jesus. The theme of John’s gospel is that Jesus is God. He is God come to earth to re-create the hearts of the people He loves so dearly. I’ve been privileged to teach through the Gospel of John three times as a pastor. Each time, the Lord has been faithful to reveal more and more of His character through the text.

Nic2As I preached through John most recently I used some artistic aids to help explain and teach the text. I found that the gospel was illuminated in a unique and inspiring way through these efforts. Through art and poetry the story came alive to me. As I journeyed with Jesus through the narrative of John, I found art and poetry capturing and elucidating truth in a way that giving a speech or an exegesis could not. What resulted was this work.10 feet2.jpeg

It is my deepest desire that this work would serve to advance the teaching of the gospel. I long for people to see Jesus. I want them to know Jesus the way I know Jesus. I want people to see His love and grace, to feel His anger at injustice, to understand His kindness to those who hate Him, and to hear His voice calling them out of darkness. Our world has so many convoluted ideas and depictions of Jesus. It is my hope that this work will draw people to see Jesus more clearly through the Scripture.fruit2

I pray you are blessed as you read through this work. I was blessed in the writing.

If you’d like to see a sample of the poetry here is a free pdf of two poems from the book: pdfsample2poems

Re-Created is available for purchase here:

Amazon.com

Lulu.com

If you are interested in bulk orders, please contact me at novis_elkins@hotmail.com with the subject heading: Re-Created Bulk Order

Romans a Study-Guide for you

product_thumbnailI wrote this study guide for you.  I may or may not know you, but it is for you. I can say that with confidence because this study guide is literally just a guide through Scripture passages, and Scripture is for you. It contains no brilliant commentary or insights that I can add. It does not have thoughts about passages or quaint stories to bring texts to life. It is simply Scripture. Each day there are two Scripture passages to read (one in the morning and one in the evening.) The evening reading is repeated the following morning. Each day has five simple questions to ponder and room to write in the book. There are fifty weeks of Scripture (424 pages) through the book of Romans. I endeavored to break Romans down into easy portions for the reader. The cross-references are intended to aid in the study of Romans.

I felt compelled to write this study guide for three reasons: Scripture interprets Scripture, people don’t read their Bibles, and just for fun.

  1. Scripture interprets Scripture.

One of the basic rules of Biblical interpretation is that the Bible is the best tool for interpreting the Bible. It sounds simple enough, but it is rarely practiced. Often, people will read a passage of Scripture, pray, and then interpret what that passage means. While this is well intentioned, that passage has a context within the book and that book has a context within the entire canon of Scripture. So, in order to glean a deeper understanding of a text, the context must be consulted.

  1. People don’t read their Bibles.

I worked through this study guide because people don’t read their Bibles. Sure, they may have a devotional or a quiet time, but seldom do I find someone who has a deep love for actually studying and reading the Bible. It is a desperate state that western Christianity finds itself in when its adherents spend so little time reading their holy book. The western church has more information about the Bible than any other group in history. There are countless teachers, books, websites, and apps to help understand the Bible. Yet, the average Christian seldom reads the Scripture. As a result, when faced with theological quandaries and challenging life circumstances, western Christians have little to grasp hold of. I intend this work to offer some solution to that difficulty. It is intended to walk the reader through texts that help them understand the book of Romans.

  1. Just for fun.

The final reason I wrote this work is because studying Scripture is fun. While it takes work and one must put in the effort, Romans is one of the most enlightening books in the Bible. It is filled with truths about God and humanity. It walks us through a systematic understanding of salvation. It challenges the very nature of our devotion to God and our love for Christ. It shows us who God is and who we are. It is challenging, engaging, troubling at times, and it is fun! Personally, I loved going through these cross references to study Romans. The complementary texts brought clarity to Romans and helped me to understand some of the deep truths presented in Romans. To engage God in the safety of what He has said about Himself is awesome! So, go get this study guide and enjoy.

(pdf sample: Romans Study Guide sample)

Here is the link to purchase online: Buy

If you would like to purchase in bulk (the printer offers me discounts) please contact me through e-mail with the subject heading “Romans Study-Guide Bulk” at novis_elkins@hotmail.com.

If you do not have the funds and would like a copy, please send an email with the subject line “Romans- funds”

If you’d like to donate to Sovereign Grace Fellowship so we can give these away, you can do so here:  Donate

A Great Book to Read: Tortured for Christ

Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor in communist Romania who was imprisoned for 14 years because he refused to say that communism was God’s ordained plan and that it is greater than the revelation of Christ. He was tortured daily in prison. One of my favorite phrases is when he talks about a deal he made with his guards in the prison. He says, “we have made a deal: each day I will give a sermon, and each night they will give me a beating. I am happy because I get to preach, they are happy because they get to beat me. All are happy.” In Tortured for Christ, Wurmbrand recounts his own story of suffering through severe persecution. He also shares stories of other persecuted Christians throughout the work. These stories stir the soul of believers to share the Word of the Lord!

The story of Wurmbrand’s suffering convicts me to share the gospel all the more boldly. Wurmbrand was beaten and persisted in preaching, we sometimes remain silent because we feel it might be a social impropriety. Wurmbrand was separated from his wife and son for the sake of the gospel, we hesistate to obey the call of God because I don’t want to risk such things. Wurmbrand knew the joy of the Lord through sacrifice and solitude and suffering, most of us have never truly sacrificed, spent time in solitude, or suffering.  We are commanded in Scripture to “remember those who are in chains as though you are in chains with them, for you are all part of the body.” Heb. 13:3 So read this book!!!

Wurmbrand also writes a chapter to the western church.  He calls us to give the underground church the tools necessary to do the work.  He states, “…we will do the suffering… we just need the tools.”  We are able to help the underground church in many ways.  One of the easiest ways is to send money to those who are dying.  A more difficult way is through legitimate prayer.  Spend time on your knees praying for the salvation of the enemies of the cross of Christ.  Finally, stand for justice in every location by loving people in a radical way.

Go get this book and read it. If you don’t like to read, go get this book and read it anyway!  If you can’t read, go get the free audio book here this month: http://christianaudio.com/free/?utm_source=HomePage&utm_medium=InternalBanner&utm_campaign=freebook

Stuff on My Wall, Final Post

I love art!  Art (all types) speaks to the soul in a way that nothing else can.  It moves the heart to understanding of God that cannot be compared to a lecture or sermon.  Because I believe this, I surround myself with works of art.  So on this back wall I have some great works I’d like to share. 
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The first one is the Lion overlooking the world.  I painted this a few years ago.  My wife and I have a favorite book: Safely Home, by randy Alcorn.  It is a fiction story about the last Christian martyr in China.  In the midst of the book there is a description of a statue of a Lion with his paw on top of the globe.  Alcorn describes the lion as tender yet fierce.  The lion holds a balance of strength and meekness, between grace and near reckless ferocity, between fury and patience.  Alcorn describes the lion as standing over the Earth with a look of power and justice.  I tried to capture that in this lion.  I keep it on the wall so that I can be reminded of Our Lord, the Lion of Judah.  He is not tame!

waterfall

Second, the picture of the waterfall (sorry for the reflection of my desk in the photo).  I was given this picture by a former coworker from back when I worked retail.  Written in the bottom right of the frame is “John 4:14.”  In John 4:14 Jesus says, “…but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  This artwork is a black and white photo of a waterfall coming out of the rocks!  Hopefully your picking up on the symbolism from the Old Testament.  If you’re not, read Exodus 14 and following… that will get you started.

Safely home

Third is a picture from Safely Home.  In this picture Jesus clutches the last martyr to his chest.  The martyr is holding some crowns in his right hand and is slumped over in the chest of Jesus as if to illustrate complete and total comfort from the exhausting work on his heart.  An angel stands in the back with the martyr’s white robe held out as if presenting it.  I love this picture because Jesus is not sitting on the thrown.  He has leapt off the throne and grabbed the martyr, clutching him close, obviously before the martyr could even complete his bow.  To the right on the floor lay the chains that once bound the martyr on earth.  They are cast off to the side.  This is the image of Jesus meeting his children in heaven!  He does not remain on the throne, He is so excited to see His brother, He runs to hold the servant close.  This is a picture drawn from the character of God found in the Gospel Parables.  It is beautiful and I am excited to see my King in person one day.  “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, in Heaven and on Earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!” –Philippians 2:10-11

Power of One

Finally, one of my favorite stories is pictured below on the shelf.  “The Power of One!”  In this world of racial discrimination and humanity wickedly oppressing other members of humanity, there are few stories as powerful and horrifying as the oppression of the Zulu people in South Africa.  Apartheid is one of the greatest blights on human history.  In The Power of One, a young white man grows up to teach reading and writing to the Zulu people who are socially, economically, and physically oppressed.  The Zulu people were not able to receive education and therefore were enslaved to a system the relegated them to poverty and death.  The young man works hard to liberate a people who are oppressed and this is that story.  This book inspires me to work hard for justice!  We are to be agents of righteousness in this world.  And, where there is injustice, we must work hard to be the justice and fight for justice for the sake of the Gospel.   If you don’t like to read, there is a fantastic movie version with Morgan Freeman!  Warning, it is graphic, rated R, and has violence and language in it.

Don’t worry, this is the last post of “stuff on my walls.”  We’ll get back to more serious things soon.  What do you have on your walls and why?

The Man Who Was Thursday

The man who was thursday

GK Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday begins as a clever mystery in which Syme, a police officer, attempts to infiltrate and expose a group of anarchists led by a powerful and mysterious leader named Sunday.  Syme gains access to the group posing as the man called Thursday.  Slowly the detective unravels the truth about the anarchists and discovers at the center of the chaos is Sunday.  Syme’s investigation of the terrorists becomes less about uncovering the evil within the organization and more about the philosophical underpinnings of apparent chaos as is juxtaposed with law and order.

As Syme investigates each of the other men he discovers that there are other detectives in the mix.  Each character is revealed to represent a certain philosophical leaning and approach to discovering the truth.  Soon the reader finds that the masters of law and order are being guided into a vast and chaotic web of exploration that reveals the nature of man and of God.

All the efforts of Syme prove to be an exercise in futility and disorder.  Surprisingly the masters of order find themselves running from the law in a wild pursuit to catch Sunday.  In the end the reader is drawn into an introspective challenge in which we are forced to answer what our opinions are about God and who He is.  In final estimation the only true anarchist is revealed and Syme is confronted with a remarkably ordered leader.

This book is an enjoyable read that leads to deep thoughts of theology.  If you need a good fiction read, this is a great one.

The Attributes of God, volume 1. By A.W. Tozer

Sometimes I pick up the work of Tozer simply to remind myself that the investigation of God’s character is the single most awe inspiring activity that a Christian can undergo.  His challenging analysis of deep topics is immersed in a pastoral tone that allows the reader to be led to worship at the throne room of God.

For Tozer, all of God’s attributes stream from the idea that God is infinite.  An infinite God cannot fit into a box or a definition. Yet, infinity does not deny the ability to investigate. And so Tozer plumbs the depths of God in such a way as to draw the reader deeper into a worship of the most high that one cannot help but enjoy thinking about the great nature of God.

If you’re scared of deep theology, you shouldn’t be. But, if you are, Tozer may be a welcome introduction for you.  His concern is primarily pastoral in nature.  Tozer wants people to know the Living God! As a result he goes to great lengths to accomplish this task.  I hope that you will read this book.  If you read nothing else, read the Bible… if you will read only one more, make it “The Road to Reality,” by KP Yohannon.  BUT!  If you want to worship, read Tozer’s Attributes of God volume 1. I cried, laughed, and felt as though I walked with Christ as I read this work. It is excellent and challenging. Read it.