Love People, Solve Problems

As I’ve been on this church planting journey that I’ve been on, I’ve tried to surround myself with some quality mentors and leaders from whom I can learn. I’ve done enough life and ministry at this point that some of the arrogance that I once had in my twenties has been rubbed away and I’ve come to a place of acknowledgement of my own limitations and inadequacies. I have been incredibly blessed to have a few mentors around me who have spoken truth, life, and encouragement to me.

Last week, I met with one of those friends and mentors for lunch. I was updating him on where I am in the process and telling him some cool God stories that had taken place. God stories are the ones that you know could only happen by God’s power and hand, not by my own talents or abilities.

As we shared stories and caught up, he felt led to share some insights with me. He told me that he wanted to share something with me that had been helpful to him which he thought would also be helpful to me.

He said, “Remember, love people and solve problems.”

As the words escaped his mouth, he let them hang there for a minute. I’m sure that the look on my face hinted at the activity in my brain at that moment. I was trying to wrap my head around just what that meant.

When he had seen that I had struggled long enough to decipher his saying, he launched into his own experience of embodying those words. He said that he had at one time tried to solve people and love problems. But he realized that was fruitless and just led to frustration.

You see, ministry in general can be frustrating. Heck, any occupation that deals with people can be frustrating, so who am I kidding. If you deal with people, you will find yourself at times angry, frustrated, and wanting to give up. You will see them as problems to be solved rather than people to be loved. The achievers among us will want to fix them, to solve them, to help them reach their full potential and forget all about one of Jesus’ greatest commands: to love them.

I can be very task oriented. I can easily see a problem and move to fix it rather than trying to understand why it’s there. In my effort to move to solution, I forget that there is flesh and blood before me, someone to be loved and not fixed.

This friend and mentor knows me well enough by now to know that this same lesson that had proved some monumental and crucial to him was also something I needed to hear and embrace.

You see, focusing on loving someone and solving the problem pits me against the problem rather than the person. When we see the problem, even if that means there is conflict between us, we join together to do our best to find out how we solve the problem together. If we look at each other rather than the problem, all we will see is each other as the problem and then try to fix each other to accommodate our own preference or mindset.

It’s too easy to get caught up in looking past people to solutions and completely forgetting how valuable and important those people are. Loving people takes time and compassion. It takes empathy and care. Loving them and solving problems means investment. If we fail to love people and solve problems, then when we fail to solve a person, we simply discard them or walk away, excusing this abandonment as necessary because of the lack of growth and movement we saw.

If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that somewhere along the way, someone loved us rather than trying to solve us. They took the time and invested in us, seeking a solution to a very real problem but seeking that solution through us rather than in us.

There is only one person who can solve and fix people, and that is God. I can’t do it. You can’t do it. The more that we try to do it, the more frustrated we will find ourselves becoming.

What will happen if you go into your day seeking to love people and solve problems. I know that in just the few short days since this truth was hammered home to me it has made a significant impact in me. It’s hard to rush towards solutions when you are simply trying to love someone.

 

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The New You – A Book Review

The New YouAccording to Nelson Searcy and Jennifer Henson, “Too many people filling American churches each weekend aren’t able to experience life to the fullest because they are struggling with their physical bodies, their minds and emotions, and their daily relationships with God.” And so the duo introduces their premise in their latest book, “The New You.”

Christians are called to care for themselves, not just physically, but emotionally, spiritually, and mentally as well. We cannot continue to make excuses as to why there is no need to care for ourselves in these areas, we need to pursue health in these areas to be good stewards of what God had given us.

Searcy and Henson take their readers through these four areas, but before they do, they remind them that this process is not one of overnight success. It is a process and they recommend three steps: surrender your health to God, stop making excuses, and start making small steps to change. When you “fall off the wagon,” make course corrections and start again. Give yourself grace and keep pressing on. They remind their readers that, “quick fixes always lead to short-term results, followed by a face plant right back into the condition we were in before we started.”

Each chapter concludes with a section called, “Small Steps to the New You,” which contains simple steps to help the reader move towards a new and healthy lifestyle. The writers share their own experiences, both successes and failures, as they encourage the reader towards a healthy lifestyle.

The message of this book is a necessary. For far too long, Christians have pointed to pet sins to decry while dismissing their own lack of stewardship in the area of health, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. This book is a call for Christians to see the need for the stewardship of their bodies and to realize that the lack of care for themselves is simply irresponsible.

While the message of this book was not new to me, Searcy and Henson’s connection of health to stewardship may be revelatory to some. They approach their subject with grace and freedom, not legalistically. If you are struggling to move towards a more healthy lifestyle, this book may be a step in the right direction.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

 

Truth In Love

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:14-16

I have been leading a group through a study in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. Last week, our study brought us to the passage above. The phrase that jumped out to me which I have continually heard quoted was, “speaking the truth in love.”

Hanging around with church people, I’ve heard this phrase used countless times.

“I really need to speak the truth in love to him.”

“She felt that she had to speak the truth in love to me.”

“Just speak the truth in love, man.”

Having read the passage and heard the phrase as often as I had, I was somewhat surprised at how it hit me this time around.

First off, Paul’s words here are spoken into community. Relationship is assumed. Deep relationship. Truth speaking is something that is earned, it isn’t a God-given right or obligation. Speaking the truth, regardless of how it is done, is rarely well received when done to strangers or those with whom we have limited or no relationship.

In a culture that seems to have an ever evolving definition of truth and which seems to grow ever more offended when some version of the truth is spoken to them, it seemed a fairly relevant verse.

As a society, we’ve pulled away from honest dialogue, in my opinion. We are quick to be offended and yet generally disregard whether our words are offensive to someone else. We get triggered for one reason or another because of the “insensitivity” of someone’s words.

Rather than practicing good listening, we would much rather say our piece and get it off our chest, not concerning ourselves with how it’s received. I read a quote the other day that said good listening is listening to understand rather than listening to respond.

This has been a journey for me. I grew up in a family that encouraged getting everything out on the table. We were never mean about it. We didn’t seek to hurt or offend, we simply sought resolution with honesty as much as possible.

Over the past few years, I’ve adopted a practice of considering a few things prior to speaking. I used to justify my truth speaking by saying that I needed to get something off my chest, justifying what I was about to say by convincing myself that holding it in would not be healthy.

Sometimes, I would convince myself that the person to whom I would speak truth needed to hear what I had to say. I didn’t necessarily consider how they would hear it, just that it was important for them to hear it.

As time has gone on, I’ve asked myself whether I legitimately have the other person’s best interest in mind. Getting something off my chest is not good reason to speak the truth. An obligation to let someone hear truth is not good reason either. My heart needs to be for that other person’s benefit, well-being, and growth. If I love them and want to see them grow, then truth speaking may be justified, but I do have to consider how I present it and whether or not someone will be willing and open to hearing it.

Last week, a good friend of mine called me to engage in a conversation about which we didn’t see eye to eye. He politely asked if I had some time and then calmly explained the situation to me. There was no hint of anger or frustration in his voice, just curiosity and a desire to learn.

We talked for nearly an hour, sharing with each other our perspectives, seeking clarity and understanding, all the while being honest and open. At the end of the time, I couldn’t help but marvel at the blessing of this friendship. More than two decades of a relationship had allowed us to come to a place where we could calmly and lovingly discuss an issue that seems to have divided others. It wasn’t because of how amazing we are as people, just because our friendship has been time-tested and we’ve grown to have a love and admiration for each other that has allowed us to speak the truth in love with no fear of offense or triggering.

I’ve grown tired and weary of those who consider themselves Christians who assume that it’s necessary to speak the truth in love no matter what. I don’t think that was Paul’s intent with these words, especially considering that he was writing to a specific faith community who were entrenched in life together. We speak differently among our family than we do outside of our family, at least we should.

God is showing me the importance of keeping my mouth shut. That doesn’t mean that I never speak my opinion. It does mean that I am going to be far more honest within my “family” than outside my family. More often than not, I will seek an invitation into honesty through relationship and wade into those waters with humility and love. After all, truth speaking doesn’t really make much sense if nobody’s listening.

A Person of Peace

One thing that I have appreciated more and more as I have matured in my faith is just how the Bible speaks to me in a specific way all the time. There are passages that I have read multiple times in various seasons of my life that have struck me differently depending on when they were being read.

As I’ve embarked on my church planting journey, I am entering in with my learning cap on. I’ve tried to walk in humility, realizing how much I don’t know, seeking to gain wisdom from the experienced ones around me. God has shaped me and formed me greatly in the last few years to be more patient than I had been before and try to engage every situation with empathetic curiosity, cautiously, caringly, and inquisitively asking questions and doing my best not to presumptuously think I know more than I really do.

For those who know me, this can be hard. There is a confidence that I have that can often be misunderstood and misinterpreted as arrogance. Age has softened me enough to help me. Age and experience have a way of doing that.

What I’m discovering is that trust and connections are super important when it comes to entering into a new space. While I’m not afraid to put myself out there and talk to people, when it comes to certain places, especially these days of limited trust, having an advocate or someone to vouch for you is critical.

Back to my original point, I’ve spent some time looking back in Luke 10, which I have been familiar with for years. Jesus sends out the seventy-two and gives them instructions on how to engage when they enter into a new space.

Luke 10:1-9 reads, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”

I had heard this spoken of multiple times, people making reference to a “person of peace.” But I had never personally experienced it, at least first hand, until I met a person of peace where I am starting a church.

The significance of having someone go before you (or alongside you) who already has the trust of others and the capital to be believable is invaluable. The amount of time saved because you’ve been trusted by a person of peace is pertinent. I am finding that the sideways glances I may have received by entering into a situation on my own are nearly eliminated when a person of peace goes before me, making introductions, stating my mission and goals.

When you grow up in the church (at least, growing up in the church for me), you can almost become immune to the power of the Bible and what it says. Our culture has become so sensationalized and awestruck by the latest and greatest, that we lose sight at times of the work that the Holy Spirit is doing under the radar.

I have seen this happen so many times in the last few months. Significant events that happen that cause me to pick up the phone and share with my wife or a close friend. Events and connections that I know I could never have caused on my own. I’m not that important of a person.

Times like these remind me to revel in them, these moments that teach me to trust more and which deepen my faith. They remind me to hang more on the words of Scripture than I can often have a tendency to. They remind me that the same God who showed his faithfulness to his people thousands of years ago as they wandered through the wilderness is the same God who has saved and is saving me.

For a guy who needs to be taught humility more often than I would probably like to admit, these moments humble me. It’s a privilege to be called to this work, a privilege which I didn’t earn. I hope and pray that I would never take that privilege for granted.

 

What Are You Celebrating?

mlk dcWhen I was younger, Martin Luther King, Jr. was just a guy whose birthday meant I got a day off of school. I heard his name, knew he championed civil rights, and knew that he had been gunned down in Memphis Tennessee.

As I got older, I no longer had the day off and, to be honest, my life was not heavily involved with some of the things that King was about. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it’s just that my world was fairly myopic in my younger adult years. I didn’t enlighten myself about issues that didn’t directly impact me, or that I didn’t think directly impacted me.

While my growing enlightenment and sense of wokeness started slowly, I think the thing that jolted me into really caring about King, who he was, and what he did was my trip to Memphis and the National Civil Rights Museum (I’ve written about it here), and ever since, this man has become more than just a name on a day of the year in January.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t perfect. From what I’ve read, he had been guilty of plagiarism in seminary and he also had a taste for women other than his wife. Those things did not sit well in the evangelical church culture in which I was raised and it always seemed that anytime anything good was brought up about him, these negative things needed to be thrown in as well. Not completely sure why, but they were inevitably brought up.

Having been a pastor myself for nearly fifteen years, I’ve grown to understand the complexities of who I am. I’ve also felt frustrated as I’ve read headline after headline of people who have put their faith in a fallible pastor rather than an infallible God. Not to justify the wrongdoings and sins of any of us, but we are imperfect human beings who stumble and fall, which is why we are so desperately in need of grace.

King wasn’t any different and if we read through the Bible, we see similar characters as well. Abraham. Moses. David. Solomon. Peter. The list goes on and on. Imperfect people who put their trust in a perfect God to use them. Sometimes I think we forget that it’s not the people who should be lauded, but rather the God whom they served.

Martin Luther King, Jr. accomplished great things in a lifetime that was cut terribly short. Who knows what more he might have accomplished had he dodged that assassin’s bullet that April morning. He wasn’t perfect, but can’t that be said of everyone who follows after God?

I’m grateful that my journey has brought me to a place where Martin Luther King, Jr. has become more than a name attached to a Monday in January. I am grateful for friends who have been patient with me as I’ve crawled out from the suburban, white bubble in which I was raised. I am grateful for the realization that God uses imperfect vessels to carry out his work.

The work that King began is not done. A look around at the state of our country is evidence of that. As far as we may have come, there is still so much farther we need to go. We can only move forward as we band together, forging ahead. In King’s own words, “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.”

As we remember this man, may we also seek to be coworkers with God, realizing that hard work is required so that we might avoid the social stagnation that threatens us.

Simpling

As I stood in the shower the other day, trying my best to wake up and prepare myself for the day, I reached towards the shelf for my soap. I had done it so many times before that one would think I would try to do it with my eyes closed. But I knew better.

You know, there’s a method to the madness, especially as the sleep drains from my body and I feel signs of life begin to spread. Wash. Rinse. Wash. Rinse. Hair. Body. Beard. There was something for each.

As I went through the process of grabbing the body wash, then the shampoo, then the beard wash, I snickered to myself. How did I get here? How had my shower life become so complicated such that I needed at least three different bottles on that shelf. And that’s a cutback considering that my shampoo is one of those two in one, shampoo and conditioner together.

If this is my shower routine, I thought, how complicated is the rest of my life?

It’s always ironic to me to consider that the very things that we have created to “simplify” our life have actually complicated it. Smartphones are supposed to make life easier, but when we are in the market for a new one, let’s make sure that they can have as many apps open at the same time as possible for maximum efficiency.

Not to mention the size of those phones. We went from those big, honking, throw them over your shoulder cell phones back in the 80s and 90s, down to the Razr and iPhone, back to the iPhone and Galaxy phones that seem to have slowly expanded in size to be a mini-mini-tablet.

If there’s anything the last few years have taught me, it’s to know and be willing to admit my limitations. In that knowledge and acknowledgement, there is also an effort to simplify. I call it simpling.

For example, I know that even though I am a people person, having more than two or three meetings in a day will wipe me out. If I try to push much beyond that, I’m not giving the best of who I am to anyway, let alone my family when I walk through the door at the end of the day. While I could pack my day full of meetings, my efficiency level will be considerably diminished. So, what’s the point?

So, I’m just trying to begin the process of simpling. The beauty of simpling, to me, is that it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that at the end of the day, there is a whole list of things that remain undone. If I put my best foot forward and step towards the tasks and places where I can be most effective, I can also identify tasks and places where others can be most effective.

Chances are, they might have not yet figured out how to be on purpose. They may be struggling to find some tasks to do and some places where they fit. I can do them a favor by pointing them in the right direction to find things that will align with who they are and what they do. It’s not to keep them “busy” but to keep them efficient and effective.

There are certainly days when I come home and wonder just how efficient and effective I’ve been. I don’t always get it right, but it’s a journey, a marathon, not a sprint. The name of the game is Adjust, and adjust I do, as often as I need to.

Perfectionists beware. This will be a hard journey for you. Me, I’m an activator, so my mantra is, “Ready! Fire! Aim!” I don’t have to be perfect, just moving in the right direction.

It’s not a resolution, just a principle. Hoping that the new path towards simpling will lead to more efficiency and better piece of mind.

 

Don’t Be A $@%#

gillette commercialIn this day and age of sexual allegations flying around like fireworks on the 4th of July and movements such as the #MeToo movement gaining such traction, it would seem like a no brainer for individuals, corporations, companies, whoever to join in with support for such movements to speak out against behavior that is less than becoming. But it seems that speaking out, even in a positive way, could possibly result in being vilified and even boycotted by the very group who is being called to a higher standard.

Recently, Gillette, the national brand of shaving supplies, created a commercial playing off of their slogan, “The best a man can get,” by asking, “Is this the best a man can get?” This question is followed by scenes of a group of kids chasing down one kid. A mother consoling her son who seems to have been cyber-bullied. Clips from TV shows showing inappropriate behavior towards women including catcalling and whistling. Finally, a group of dads at a barbecue with their sons who happen to be fighting on the grass in front of them.

As the narration continues over these images, these men respond to the behavior by saying, “Boys will be boys.” A clip of Terry Crews testifying on C-SPAN regarding the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act saying, “Men need to hold other men accountable.” As the commercial plays on, there are scenes of men stepping in and holding others accountable, just as Crews called for in his testimony. The viewer is reminded that, “The boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”

As of Wednesday night, the video on YouTube had been viewed over 14 million times with 349k likes and 733k dislikes. A scroll down through the comments beneath the video is not for the faint of heart. While there are a handful of constructive remarks, the majority of them are toxic, hateful, and ignorant.

When news began to break of this commercial, I rushed to find the video to see for myself what could be causing such an uprising among men. Piers Morgan, English journalist and writer, reported on Good Morning Britain that the commercial tells men they need to be “rehabilitated” and that they are “monsters” who need to be taught how to behave. Somehow, Morgan’s interpretation of the commercial (and apparently a whole slew of YouTube viewers’ interpretation as well) is that the negative behavior in the advertisement somehow makes a claim that ALL men are guilty of sexual harassment

Morgan responded with a considerable amount of vitriol, even taking to Twitter with his rantings and engaging with film creator, Jeffrey Reddick, on the subject. Reddick’s response to Morgan was this, “Gillette isn’t saying men and masculinity are bad. Toxic masculinity is when we teach boys that real men don’t cry. Real men don’t show fear. Real men don’t lose. Real men take what they want. Real men solve problems with their fists. It is toxic and it damages men and women.”

Having seen all the hype about the commercial before I had actually watched it, I have to say that in watching the commercial for myself, I had to make sure I had searched and found the correct video. All these accusations that Morgan and others claim, this toxic masculinity that is decried in the video, I struggled to understand just what all the rage was about.

As a father of both sons and a daughter, I am equally conscious of both sides of this discussion. I have constantly tried to instill in my boys that there are certain ways to treat women, no matter who they are. They are young, so I haven’t hit on some of the subjects that the Gillette ad touches on or that Morgan gets to in his reporting, but I expect that those conversations will happen.

At the same time, I fear for my daughter. I know what goes through the mind of a teenage boy as I was one once. I’ve read enough stories about what happens on college campuses that there are times when I would like my daughter to be homeschooled for college. While I wouldn’t do that to her, I think you get the sentiment.

Yes, there has been an excessive amount of press in the past few years about men behaving badly against women. I would also argue that the press in the last few years hardly makes up for the countless years that have gone by in which any stories of this kind of behavior was squashed or eliminated altogether without any reporting at all.

I fail to see how Morgan and others can claim that this ad is somehow an attack on men and masculinity unless, of course, we have a significantly different definition of masculinity.

According to Wikipedia, “Masculinity (also called manhood or manliness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles associated with boys and men. As a social construct, it is distinct from the definition of the male biological sex. Standards of manliness or masculinity vary across different cultures and historical periods.”

I was glad when I asked my ten year old son for the definition of masculine that he stated it was standing up for someone who can’t stand up for themselves. Based on what I see in the video, my son’s definition aligns with this depiction as well.

While some may be offended by the graphic nature of Piers Morgan’s tweet below, I have to agree with the sentiment of the person who responds, “Don’t be a $@%#” seems to be the basic message of the advertisement. If that’s a bad message, then I guess I truly am missing something.

piers morgan tweet

We should be teaching young men and boys to treat everyone with respect, women and men. We should be teaching them that masculinity isn’t about the number of girls you’ve slept with or taken advantage of nor is it about your physicality or physique. Instead, it’s more about character and, despite popular belief, it may involve not only acknowledging your own feelings but also displaying them as well.

We’ve grown accustomed to a distorted view and definition of masculinity that I think Gillette is trying to remedy and correct. Their recommendations on how men should act aren’t offensive to me, but they are to others.

Is there a place for someone to do an advertisement about how women should act? Maybe, but that isn’t the point, is it? The point is, if we’re honest, there has been a lopsided history of bad behavior being suppressed and while there has been somewhat of a culture shift to expose some of this behavior, I think that years of silence weren’t necessarily because of a lack of incidents but rather a fear of little or no response to those incidents.

Yes, Hollywood has responded and the #MeToo movement has taken off, but I can’t help but wonder about some who have been accused, did apologies come because people were caught or because they were legitimately remorseful for the actions that they have done.

Ultimately, I don’t think there is anything wrong with calling men to continue to pursue good behavior. Redefining masculinity away from the toxic ways it has been described or exhibited in the past is not a bad thing either. We need to not only clearly articulate this definition for boys and young men but girls and young women. If girls and young women aren’t taught clearly just what kind of behavior and treatment they should be expecting out of men, we are doing them a major disservice and not moving far enough from the past which has plagued us.

Is it a shaving company’s place to be calling me to this kind of action? No more or less than should it be the place of a Hollywood celebrity to tell us how to vote. Should it really matter from where a call to positive action comes from?

Book Plan for 2019

Library with a book ladder and lampWhen it comes to focus, I’m not always very good. At this point in my life though, I’ve learned that it’s a weakness and so I’ve tried my best to create guardrails along the way that help me to stay a little more focused than I naturally would. White boards. Notebooks. Post-It notes. Whatever it takes to help me get brought back to center after veering off the path. Yearly book plans, for me, act as a sort of guardrail to help me stay somewhat focused on what to be reading.

Over the last few years, I’ve been doing this with mild success. Mild success means that I haven’t ever read more than 50% of my list. At the same time, I’ve averaged about five and a half books per month, nothing to shake a stick at. So, success, in my book, isn’t making sure that I conquer my list, it’s helping me stay focused on something. I’ve learned that if I focus on nothing, I’ll hit it every single time.

Still doing my best to diversify my list. I’ve had a knack for choosing non-fiction books that would be most likely categorized as evangelical and Christian and span around two hundred pages. Pretty consistent with that here with a few diversions thrown in here and there for good measure. A few novels. Some books that peers read decades ago. Doing my best to round the list out as best I can.

So, without further ado, here is my list for 2019. This is no promise to get through all these books, it’s just helping me to stay more focused than I would have if left to my own devices.

G.K. Chesterton “Orthodoxy”

Zack Eswine “Preaching to a Post-Everything World”

Matthew Everhard “A Theology of Joy”

Darrell Guder “Missional Church”

John Irving “A Prayer For Owen Meany”

Philip Jenkins “The Next Christendom”

Tim Keller “Ministries of Mercy”

Tim Keller “Center Church”

Jack Kerouac “On the Road”

Stephen King “It”

Erik Larson “The Devil in the White City”

Justin Lee “Talking Across the Divide”

Patrick Lencioni “Death By Meeting”

Will Mancini “Church Unique”

Alister McGrath “C.S. Lewis”

Sally Morgenthaler “Worship Evangelism”

Barack Obama “The Audacity of Hope”

Jackie Hill Perry “Gay Girl, Good God”

Soong-Chan Rah “The Next Evangelicalism”

Alan Roxburgh “The Missional Leader”

Francis Schaeffer “The Church at the End of the 20th Century”

Nelson Searcy and Jennifer Dykes Henson “The New You”

Simon Sinek “Start With Why”

Frank Viola “Reimagining Church”

Like I said, there isn’t a huge expectation that I will complete this list. Fifty percent completion is good for me. There will be book reviews along the way (they accounted for 44% of books read last year). There will also be books that grab my attention along the way, books which have been recommended to me which feel significant enough to me that I need to set other things aside to pursue.

My biggest concern in all of this is that while filling my mind with what’s in these books, I miss what’s going on around me. Doing my best to remain present and focused at the same time.

Books Read in 2018

open-booksIn 2018, I read 66 books. That’s two less than 2017. Of the 66 books that I read, 29 were books that were reviewed for publishers (that’s about 44% of my total). 11 of the books were from my reading plan (about 17% of my total). My reading plan for 2018 contained 30 books total. Considering that I read the same number of books from my reading list in 2017 and 2018, I think lowering the number makes more sense for 2019 (I will post the Reading Plan for 2019 next week).

Out of all the books that I read in 2018, these were among the top. Four of five of them have reviews written on them by me, click on the titles to get to those reviews.

George Barna “The Power of Vision

Michael Frost “Incarnate”

Bryan Loritts “Insider Outsider

Grant Skeldon with Ryan Casey Waller “The Passion Generation

Lance Witt “High Impact Teams

 

Here are the other books read this year.

Michael Anthony “A Call For Courage”

Sarah Arthur “A Light So Lovely”

Jay Asher “Thirteen Reasons Why”

David and Jason Benham “Miracle In Shreveport”

Chad Bird “Your God Is Too Glorious”

Rosaria Butterfield “Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert”

Rosaria Butterfield “The Gospel Comes With a House Key”

Benjamin Campbell “Richmond’s Unhealed History”

D.A. Carson “The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus”

D.A. Carson “The Cross and Christian Ministry”

Steven Curtis Chapman “Between Heaven & the Real World”

Bruce Cockburn “Rumours of Glory”

Mike Cosper “Faith Among the Faithless”

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile “The Road Back To You”

Kevin DeYoung “The Hole in Our Holiness”

Nicole Doyley “One – Racial Unity in the Body of Christ”

Rachel Held Evans “Inspired”

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch “The Shaping of Things to Come”

Maria Furlough “Breaking the Fear Cycle”

Keith and Kristyn Getty “Sing!”

Patrice Gopo “All the Colors We Will See”

David Gushee “Still Christian”

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay “And”

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay “The Tangible Kingdom”

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay “The Tangible Kingdom Primer”

Colin Hansen and Jeff Robinson, eds. “12 Faithful Men”

Mo Isom “Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot”

Kathy Izard “The Hundred Story Home”

Caleb Kaltenbach “Messy Grace”

John Kotter “Our Iceberg Is Melting”

Patrick Lencioni “Getting Naked”

Joseph Loconte “A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War”

Aubrey Malphurs “Developing Emotionally Mature Leaders”

Steve Martin “Born Standing Up”

Knox McCoy “The Wondering Years”

Rick McKinley “Faith For This Moment”

Robert Murray M’Cheyne “Songs of Zion”

Matt Mikalatos “Good News For A Change”

Bart Millard “I Can Only Imagine”

Albert Mohler, Jr. “The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down”

Henri J.M. Nouwen “A Spirituality of Fundraising”

Nancy R. Pearcey “Love Thy Body”

John M. Perkins “One Blood”

Eugene Peterson “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”

Francis Schaeffer “The Church Before the Watching World”

Francis Schaeffer “Escape From Reason”

Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas “Activate”

Jack Shitama “Anxious Church Anxious People”

Ed Stetzer “Planting Missional Churches”

Bryan Stevenson “Just Mercy”

Charles R. Swindoll “Elijah”

Joni Eareckson Tada “When Is It Right To Die?”

Hudson Taylor “The Autobiography of Hudson Taylor: Missionary to China”

J.R.R. Tolkien “The Two Towers”

Chris Tomlin and Darren Whitehead “Holy Roar”

Tish Harrison Warren “Liturgy of the Ordinary”

Timothy Z. Witmer “The Shepherd Leader”

J.R. Woodward and Dan White, Jr. “The Church As Movement”

N.T. Wright “Paul – A Biography”

Justin Zoradi “Made For These Times”

Darlene Zschech “The Golden Thread”

Basics for Believers – A Book Review

basics for believersPhilippians is a fairly short and concise book. Yet in the four chapters of this book, Paul outlines much of what the basic Christian life is or should be about. In “Basics for Believers,” D.A. Carson takes a deeper look.

Carson distills the message of Philippians down into four key ideas that Paul emphasizes: put the gospel first, adopt Jesus’ death as a test of your outlook, emulate worthy Christian leaders, and never give up the Christian walk. Those are the chapters that Carson divides this book into as he walks the reader through Philippians.

Carson doesn’t dive into the  original languages or spend a lot of time academically expounding upon the text of Philippians. Instead, he takes a very practical approach towards this Pauline letter. He doesn’t get caught up using deep theological language but writes in a simple and understandable way.

The subtitle of this book is, “The core of Christian faith and life – A Study of Philippians.” For readers wanting to study Paul’s letter deeper than a simple reading of the text, this book would be helpful. It’s a good starting point but will most likely not satisfy the more academic readers who want a more in depth study.

Ultimately, Carson’s words regarding the last chapter of Philippians give a good synopsis of the book overall. Carson writes that this last chapter emphasizes, “integrity in relationships, fidelity toward God, quiet confidence in him, purity and wholesomeness in thought, and godliness in heart attitude.” Those are the basics that Carson believes Paul conveys to his early readers and the basics that Carson emphasizes to his readers as well.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)