10 Books

Leaders are Readers.

I say that a lot.

I often have students ask me what they should read. So, I thought I would put together a list of the 10 books that have had the most influence on my life. I would like to hear your list too.

1. Just Like Jesus [Max Lucado]
I know Max Lucado might not be that popular among the trendy, hipster, new church world. But, when I went to college I hated to read. I only finished one book during my time in high school. You can’t survive that way in college. The problem was…I didn’t like the books that the professors asked me to read. I decided that in order for me to enjoy reading I had to start with something simple and intriguing. Someone pointed me to Max Lucado and Just Like Jesus was the first book that grabbed my attention. I love to read now because of Max Lucado books. I would highly recommend his stuff.

2. Intimacy with the Almighty [Charles Swindoll]
Swindoll is old school. (You’ll notice that most of the books on my list are either by old school authors or dead authors…a couple are not) This book began a process that God has had me working through for the past 10 years of ministry. Intimacy with the Almighty comes before ministry. I still struggle with this principal and that is why this book is the only book that I have read more than twice. I find myself picking it up off my shelf from time to time and reading it in a sitting (don’t worry is short and sweet).

3. Seizing Your Divine Moment/Chasing Daylight [Erwin McManus]
In 2003 I was about to be fired for the 2nd time in less than 2 years by an established church board when I had the amazing opportunity to attend Mosaic in LA and meet Erwin McManus. He was gracious enough to talk to Nicole and I for a few minutes. I told him about our situation and he said to me, “You need to decide whether or not you are a starter or a sustainer and then go from there.” This book helped me realize that I’m a starter and was the catalyst that helped Nicole and I launch Impact in the fall of 2004.

4. Leadership and Self-Deception [Arbinger Institute]
This book helped me realize how each of us place each other into boxes. This is paralyzing and destructive. Great book on leadership!

5. Return of the Prodigal Son [Henri Nouwen]
I’m not sure what else to say except this book saved my faith. That might sound extreme but it renewed and revived me.

6. In the Name of Jesus [Henri Nouwen]
Probably the best book I’ve ever read on leadership. It took me from an imperialistic view of leadership to a relational view of leadership.

7. Velvet Elvis [Rob Bell]
This book and so many other things that Rob Bell has written and spoken has reminded me that questions are good. There’s always a truth laying just beyond the surface.

8. The Cost of Discipleship [Dietrich Bonhoeffer]
It took me 6 months to read this book. It was heavy. Deep. Painful. It challenged me to move beyond the surface.

9. The Circle Series [Ted Dekker]
I never liked fiction until I was introduced to Ted Dekker. This series gave me a glimpse of God’s heart for me and His Kingdom that I had never dreamed of.

10. Mystery of God’s Will [Charles Swindoll]
My view of God’s will was so selfish. I wanted God to submit to my will rather than me submitting to His will. This book helped me rethink God’s will for my life and for his creation.

I’m sure there are several other books that had a huge influence on my life and the way I do ministry. But these 10 are forever marked in my mind.  To see some other books I’ve read you can view my online bookshelf HERE.

What are your top 10?

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Remember where you came from…

What’s your story?

Where has your journey led you?

What’s your history?

Too often we try to hide our story, escape our journey and sugar coat our history.

The Apostle Paul frequently recounted his journey on the pages of his letters. He wrote these words to his understudy, Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Paul remembered where he came from from.

He was ashamed of it.

He was guilt reddened because of it.

He didn’t try to hide it, escape it or sugar coat it.

Remembering where you came from does three things:

1. Helps us remain humble.

2. Reminds that God never left us. [Read Joshua 4]

3. Points forward

If you become a big deal…remember where you came from…it has a way of keeping you grounded.

If you feel forgotten, overlooked, without purpose…remember where you came from…it has a way of reminding you that you’ve come a long way and just because you still have a long way to go doesn’t mean your hopeless.

If your future seems foggy…remember where you came from…it has a way of pointing forward to what is to come. Looking back and seeing what God has done can help us to see what God is going to do.

It’s funny how much I learn when I read books to my 2 year old son. His bookshelf is full of wisdom. There’s a book that he loves called Climb the Family Tree, Jesse Bear! I want to share it with you as a way to remind us all of where we came from. So many memories of my family, my heritage, my story, my journey, my hometown come to the surface as I read this book. It helps me remain humble and it reminds me that my story is beautiful and not finished. Your story is good! Your journey is good! Your heritage is good! Remember it. Embrace it. Cherish it (you only have one shot at it). Learn from it. Hope you enjoy!

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
We’re here, Jesse Bear!
We’re here!

There’s Grandpa in his funny hat
And Grandma by the well.
We’ll help them pick the strawberries
And put them out to sell.

My favorite, Uncle Bill, is here.
He flew in his new plane.
Maybe he’ll take me up with him,
Unless there’s wind and rain.

Auntie Lin and Auntie Kim
And old Great-Auntie Lou
Wear their shawls and pat my head
And say, “Oh, look at you!”

The cousins are in every size.
The baby’s in my chair.
When I get too close to him,
He always pulls my hair.

There’s Great-Grandpa’s photo
At the end of the long hall,
And Great-Grandmother’s quilt
Is hanging on the wall

Great-Aunt Emma’s painting
And Cousin Ben’s smooth stones,
Small boxes and birdhouses
And prehistoric bones!

We hear family tales of long ago:
Weddings by the tree,
The day you raced to the hospital,
The day you first saw me!

The fireflies light the evening.
There’s a very starry sky.
The younger aunts do a dance,
The older aunts all sigh.

Grandpa plays his old fiddle
And tells where it came from.
Auntie May strums away
While all the cousins hum.

Sleeping in the tent is fun–
There’s room enough for toys.
We hear the bullfrogs from the pond
And lots of snoring noise.

The next day we go boating
And take a long hayride.
Aunts and uncles play croquet.
The cousins run and hide.

There’s laughing and there’s crying
And sometimes even fights,
But we always find a way
Of making wrong things right.

The uncles talk of all the things
They like to do the best.
The aunts tells stories one by one,
And Grandpa takes a rest.

We smell flowers from the garden,
Grass that’s had a trim,
Grandma’s bread and apple pie,
Sweet rolls by Uncle Jim.

We taste Aunt Flo’s cherry jam
And berries from the vine.
Ice cream we make and eat with cake
Will taste especially fine.

It feels so good to see them all–
Our family in one spot.
Some are different, some the same.
Some like to hug a lot!

Grandma has the trunk brought out
Of faded family clothes.
The cousins all dress up in them
And for the pictures pose.

But the most exciting thing
That’s special, just for me–
This is the year I’m old enough
To climb the family tree!

The Interior

“We see that many religious people are not saints, whereas all saints are religious. For people who devote themselves to ceremonies, sacrifices, etc., can be termed religious; but they can only be called saints in so far as by means of these things they give themselves interiorly to God.”
[st. thomas aquinas]

“Every day in life is beautiful.”

We spend a lot of energy on the dark things of life. We complain. We belly ache. We wallow in spoiled milk.

This is where the enemy of darkness wants us to be. The enemy wants us to see this life as awful, worthless and hopeless.

But there are some like, Alice Herz-Sommer, a Holocaust Survivor, who begin to see things differently.

She says things like, “Every day of life is beautiful.”

She reminds us that, “Hatred only breeds hatred.”

What a beautiful woman that has a refreshing perspective that has been molded by tragedy, pain and relationships.

May you and I see the beauty that surrounds us today, tomorrow and all the days of our lives. God has not left us…He is in our midst and He is beautiful!

The Power of Persuasion

A friend of mine shared a with me that I find very interesting:

Many years ago, a man was traveling across the country by sneaking from one freight train to the next. One night he climbed into what he thought was a boxcar. He closed the door, which automatically locked shut and trapped him inside. When his eyes adjusted to the light, he realized he was inside a refrigerated boxcar, and he became aware of the intense, freezing cold. He called for help and pounded on the door, but all the noise he made from the inside the car failed to attract anyone’s attention. After many hours of struggle, he lay down on the floor of the railroad car. As he tried to fight against the freezing cold, he scratched a message on the floor explaining his unfortunate, imminent death. Late the next day, repairmen from the railroad opened the door and found the dead man inside. Though the man had all the appearance of having frozen to death, the truth was the repairmen had come to fix the broken refrigerator unit in that car. Most likely the temperature of the railroad car had never fallen below fifty degrees during the night. The man had died because he thought he was freezing to death.

After reading this story I did some research and found that most likely this story is not true. You can find a similar story at snopes.com.

With that said, I believe it still says a lot about our minds and the way we arrive at conclusion, beliefs, theologies and even understandings of people and God.

This story is about the power of persuasion. Our ability to persuade ourselves and even others to belief something that may or may not be true. This is a dangerous thing. We can persuade ourselves to believe anything really. We can lay in bed at night and mediate on a new truth…a new idea…and by the time we fall asleep we believe it.

The dangerous thing about our world today is both a curse and a blessing; the massive number of opinions.

This is good.

It’s great to have several opinions come to the table. It’s fantastic to have people thinking through things differently and seeing things from different angles. Questions and challenges are good.

But, it’s a curse as well because you can find “proof” to back up anything you can think of. There’s entire groups of people that believe the holocaust never took place. There’s an entire group of people that believe the south will rise again. There’s an entire group of people that believe Elvis is still alive. There’s an entire group of people that believe anything that you want to believe… And they have a very persuasive argument to re-assure you that your idea is true.

What scares me most is the fact that we can do this in our churches and with matters of faith as well. We can persuade people to believe a certain way. We can persuade people to believe in God. We can persuade people to buy into our core values.

The reality is, if you have a charismatic leader, you can create a following and persuade people to believe every word. This scares me.

So, how do we make sure that we are not being persuaded and the conclusions we have made are true. Here’s some steps that you can take in order to discern between an idea that is truth and an idea that you have been persuaded to believe is true.

1. Scripture
This is where we should always start. Take an idea and compare it to the whole of Scripture. Study the hebrew and greek meaning of the words. Always read for context. Don’t pick a verse out of the whole. Read the chapter before and the chapter after. Try to understand the story.

2. Community
Have a group of people that you go to for wisdom and discernment. If they tell you your idea is crazy and off base you might want to re-evaluate. God puts these people in your life for a reason. Use them.

3. Church History
Compare these ideas with the whole of Church history and Church theology. Remember, there’s nothing new under the sun. If you think you have come to a new revelation that no one else has ever seen…you might want to re-evaluate. There are a lot of smart guys and gals out there right now. They have great thoughts and ideas…but be sure to compare them to the guys and gals that have gone on before us. We don’t want to be a product of our generation alone…we want to be a product of the entire story.

4. Take it Slow
Let it simmer. We jump to conclusions way too quickly. We write on stone before even testing it. The process of is a lot longer, slower and more tedious then most people like. So, let that new idea sit for a while. Wrestle with that challenge to “what you have always believed about something” until it hurts and then wrestle some more. Slow down!

5. Compare it to Jesus
Jesus says things like, “Remain in me and I will remain in you.” “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” If a new idea does not hold up when you compare to the Gospels and the life and teachings of Jesus then throw it away. You might say, “Yea but Jesus did say anything specific on this situation?” Take that situation and look behind it. There’s always a thing behind the thing. What’s the root of the situation? What’s at the foundation of this situation? And then take the root and the foundation of that situation, that idea, that new found belief and compare to the teachings of Jesus.

I practice these 5 things to protect my mind and heart. I practice these 5 things because I know that I am a sucker for new things, new ideas, new ways of seeing things…new, new, new.

But I’m finding that although God does make things new every day…He also remains steady. He is a firm foundation. His Word is a firm foundation. His ways have been the same yesterday, today and will be tomorrow.

I have made it my personal goal to read more and more books and commentaries by dead people. Why? Because I want to make sure that I compare what I’m hearing today, what I’m thinking today, to what God did before I was a twinkle in my momma’s eye.

We can persuade ourselves to believe anything. We can be persuaded by charismatic communicators and writers to believe anything. We must guard ourselves or we’ll be believing a man made religion that does not include God at all.

A Reminder…I need a Savior

Last night I was discouraged…just feeling overwhelmed, tired, conquered, not wanting to sleep, abandoned and confused…you get the picture.

So, I opened my Bible and it fell open to the prophet Jeremiah. I started reading in Jeremiah 37 and this paragraph jumped off the page at me ::

“This is what the LORD says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, ‘The Babylonians will surely leave us.’ They will not! Even if you were to defeat the entire Babylonian army that is attacking you and only wounded men were left in their tents, they would come out and burn this city down.”

During this time in the story of God’s people the Babylonians had their foot on the Israelites throat. I’m sure the Israelites felt overwhelmed, tired, conquered, not wanting to sleep and confused.

But something else interesting is taking place in Jeremiah 37. The Babylonians start to run. They begin to flee.

And it seems to me that the Israelites started to become slightly puffed up…thinking to themselves…that’s right, we’ve run them off, we’ve beat them, watch them run with their tails between their legs.

I tend to become puffed up at times.

Thinking that I’ve conquered my sin. Conquered my struggles. Conquered my insecurities. Conquered my fears. Conquered my questions. Conquered my doubts. Conquered my loneliness.

I think that I’ve left the darkness debilitated…paralyzed…bloody…wounded and beaten back to never return.

I think pretty highly of my self from time to time. To be honest…I become my own savior from time to time…I fight my own battles and feel slightly successful…maybe just like the Israelites.

And then God reminds me…I need a Savior. I need Another.

God says, “Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, ‘The Babylonians will surely leave us.’ They will not! Even if you were to defeat the entire Babylonian army that is attacking you and only wounded men were left in their tents, they would come out and burn this city down.”

He reminds me that I cannot conquer my sin, my fear, my insecurity, my loneliness. And the moment that I think I can…it will come back to bite me, defeat me, attack me.

God reminds His people that He is the one that will fight for them…He will be the one that Conquers.

Over and over again through out the story of the Israelites God reminded his people that He alone is their Savior, Lord and King. Over and over again God reminds His people that He is their God, the One and Only and they are His people.

Last night I needed a reminder…

I need Another to fight for me. I need Another to conquer my fears, insecurities, loneliness and sin. I need the One and Only to hold me and be my fulfillment. I need Him. I can’t live without Him.

I need a Savior!

The good, the bad & the ugly

“There is little romanticism to community life.”
-Henri Nouwen

Living in community is hard work.

It takes flexibility. Forgiveness. Conversation. Time. Effort.

And maybe most importantly an understanding of two things ::

1. You and I are different and that is ok.

2. You and I are not perfect and we will screw up and hurt one another…and we can work through it.

What I find is that most people are not ok with these two things.

I want you to be more like me. I want you to believe exactly the way I believe. I want you to see the world exactly the way I see the world. I want you to relate to God exactly the way I relate to God. I want you to be more like me…Or I want to be more like you.

And…

I’m not ok with you screwing up. I say I am…but I’m not really. When you hurt me…I cut you off. When you stab me in the back…I seek revenge. When you lie to me…I refuse to trust you.

When we live like this then true, beautiful, whole community is not possible.

I think we live like this because we have a terrible misconception of what community is meant to be.

We believe that community is supposed to be easy, clean, puppies and fluffy couds.

We believe community is an uninterrupted romance.

I love what Henri Nouwen says, “There is little romanticism to community life.”

That is so true.

I will tell you this…there is a lot of…

hurt…

pain…

dirt…

mess…

lies…

gossip…

judgement…

rough times…

valleys…

arguments…

disagreements…

doubts…

misunderstandings…

perspectives…

…in community.

This is what true community looks like.

It’s a group of people that do life together no matter what circumstance arises.

They do life together in the honeymoon stage and when they’ve been together for 64 years.

In the words of the author of the book of Hebrews, they refuse to give up on one another.

Does this describe your community?

Does this describe what you expect from that community?

Does this describe you?

Is this how people describe the Church?

Are we seen as a group of people that live life together with all of our baggage, junk, disagreements and mess?

Are we seen as a group of people that are defined by our love in the midst of the mess?

Is our love for one another described as a love that always perseveres, always hopes and never fails?

I believe this is what Jesus had in mind when He declared a new way of living life. I believe this is what he had in mind when he sent his disciples out to be the Church. I believe this is the way of Jesus and the perfect portrait of His bride.

It’s the good, the bad and the ugly…

All wrapped into ONE.