Leaders are readers, and readers lead. At least that’s what I’ve always been told.
For 2017, I decided to make it my goal to read 15 books. I’ve read 17 so far and I’m working on number 18. I felt pretty good about myself for that, and then my wife told me she just finished reading her 40th book this year. (Insert comical wah wah wah wah trombone sound here.)
Anyway, I thought I’d share with you the five books that had the greatest impact on me in 2017. In no particular order, they are as follows:
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
In this book, Greg McKeown walks readers through the process of eliminating the non-essentials in life and work so that our efforts and energy have greater impact. It’s definitely one I’ll read again every year or two to keep the concepts fresh.
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing
Dr. Joy DeGruy does an amazing job of explaining the impact that hundreds of years of slavery has had on American black culture. If you’ve ever scratched your head wondering about racial tension this is a great place to start.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Ever struggle to concentrate for more than a few seconds? Cal Newport writes about creating the conditions conducive to strong focus, problem solving, and life free from distractions. I’ve recommended this book to more people this year than any other.
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
N.T. Wright explains the gospels in a way I’ve never considered before. Incredible insights on the Kingdom of God, the coming of Jesus, and the role of the believer today. It might hold a personal record for most highlighted book!
Fathered by God: Learning What Your Dad Could Never Teach You
Here John Eldredge shares a pathway to manhood for a generation where Godly fathers were in short supply. Really helpful for understanding where you are along your life’s journey, and how you can make a contribution to the development of other.
That’s my list. If you have a book or two that were particularly impactful to you this year, would you mind sharing them in the comments? I’m building my list for 2018. Thanks!
I know this post doesn’t really fit that great here at my blog site, but I was hoping that this would be a blessing for both of us.
Last year, I took a huge, stretchy step of faith and decided to become a tent maker. After 17 years of full-time ministry, I started my own business, and continued to speak, write, take missions trips, etc, without receiving a weekly paycheck. I know that sounds backwards. Most people work a job outside of ministry until they can go “full-time” at a church or something. It’s an experiment I wanted to conduct and the results aren’t in yet.
The business happens to be a media/marketing business. We build web sites, create graphics, videos, etc for churches, ministries, and small businesses. We also build blogs, which leads us to this opportunity…
I would like to set up a first class blog for you for free. One with a real address like www.yourname.com instead of www.yourname.blogger.com. One built with a premium theme that you can customize and make your own. And I’d like to give you a super cool email address with your own url in it instead of that old gmail address. What will this cost you? NOTHING! Just pay your hosting fee ($10 a month) and you’ve just stepped in to Awesome Bloggerville.
Why? Because your monthly hosting fee helps me to keep leading prayer experiences, keep preaching, and keep taking equipment to Irish church planters, that’s why. It’s a blessing to me and my family AND a blessing to you because you get a premium blog setup for free.
So here’s how it works. We’ll take care of your domain name (how about jesusisawesome.com?), give you two email addresses, build the required database, install WordPress on our servers, and hook you up with one of the best themes available. It’s the same theme I use (without the wood background and other customizations I’ve made). Then you take it, add your own personal touches to it, and blog like the wind!
It’s a super great opportunity to upgrade to a first class blog site AND support a cool ministry! Just send an email to email@example.com with your name, email address, phone number, and current web site (if any), and I’ll contact you to get started. You’ll be glad you did!
Thanks so much!!
I almost forgot! Please consider hitting that Tweet button on the left. It would be great if LOTS of people knew about this opportunity. Thanks in advance!
Risk is… risky. How’s that for profound? We like sure things. When we invest out time, money, and energy into something we want to KNOW it’s going to succeed. It’s heartbreaking to put yourself out there, pour yourself into a project, or invest your life into something just to have it fail. I know. I’ve been there. In 1999 I sold most of what I owned, packed up my family, and moved to Ireland to plant a church. You know what happened? It was an epic failure… More on that later, but let’s take a deeper look at this thing we call risk.
Look at the great successes in our world and in scripture. Esther’s role in the deliverance of her people, Moses and the Israelites at the bank of the Red Sea, David standing up against Goliath. How about William Wilberforce against the slave trade, The Pilgrims coming to America, or any of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Today, we only read their stories from this side of their struggle. We hear about the victory. But to them, in that moment of engaging in a mission, they had no idea how things would turn out. They were risking everything with no promise of success. I’m so grateful they decided to risk it all!
I want to share a couple of things I’ve learned when it comes to risk:
If you want to do anything of significance, it’s going to require risk. From planting a church, to establishing new relationships, to reaching the lost, or helping the poor. From writing that book, to interviewing for that job, or preaching for the first time it all requires risk. There’s a chance for failure and we have to be willing to live with that because the moment we decide to stop taking risks we lose all potential for doing anything great.
All risk in God’s economy is worth taking. This one is tough, especially in a culture that worships security. We want to know that, whatever risks we take, we’ll still be able to live at the “standard of living” we are currently living at. I think, as Christians, we should be far more concerned with our standard of dying than our standard of living. We’ve been fed the gospel of success for so long that the idea of a venture not turning out as we hoped leaves us feeling disenchanted and hopeless. The truth is this: when we take a risk for the sake of Christ, whether we fail or succeed, it was totally worth taking.
1st Corinthians 15:58 says, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”
NOTHING you do for the Lord is ever useless! What an amazingly comforting word! That means my failure to plant a church in Ireland was not useless. Something came out of it even if I never saw it. And truth be told, I don’t regret doing it. I risked, and I lost, but I also gained, and I’m sure there were people who were blessed along the way.
So go ahead and take that risk! Focus more on obeying God’s call and less on what-ifs. “be strong and unmovable”. Whatever the outcome, it will have been worth it!
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Inspire. That’s a huge word (for only two syllables). It’s what I love to do. I had my first opportunity to inspire a church body way back when I was just a teenager and now, all these years later, I still love to provoke people to reach farther, pray harder, dream bigger, and love stronger. My hope is that, somewhere among these paragraphs of stories, anecdotes, and (unapologetically) sermons you’ll think, laugh, feel, and be inspired.
Thanks for taking the time.
We made it to Ireland! After flying through the night and loosing six hours, we arrived in Dublin, picked up our car, bought groceries, and drove out to Slane Farm Cottages in County Meath. There’s never much to report the first day since you feel like the walking dead until you adjust to the time difference.
Our phone number here is 011 353 87 664 5183. Please remember, we are six hours ahead if you decide to call. If there is no answer, it’s because we’re sleeping or in a meeting.
Here are some pictures from day 1…
A snack before taking a serious nap!
Piling in the car to go eat.
Irish signpost. Going in to Slane.
Ancient road marker across the street from our cottage.
Dinner at a proper Irish pub
Vanessa, Bethany, and Jarica barely awake and ready to eat something besides airplane food.
Another update to come tomorrow!
Here’s one from a while back I wanted to share with you…
I was listening recently to a 500 year old benediction, sung in Latin, by a four voice choir. There were several things that struck me about the piece. One was the way the song sounded so full and rich, even though it was only four voices, no accompaniment, no effects or processing. Just four voices lifting praises to God. Another was how beautiful and melodic the music was. It seemed to gently rise and flow like small waves on the water. It was a far cry from the four chord wonders we play in church today. Lastly, even though I understood not one of the words being sung, I was moved. Moved to tears, moved to meditate on God’s great beauty and, because the choral was birthed from Psalm 51, moved to repentance. I found myself asking forgiveness for my severe inadequacies in expressing worship to The Father, my inability to communicate to Him beyond simple, base expressions, and for the shallowness my own spiritual well.
I’ve often thought about the idea that my life could be a song to The Lord. I’ve even sung it in church “My life’s a love song to you”. But what kind of song am I? I’ve also watched movies and thought, “If my life were a movie, what kind of movie would it be?” A complicated drama directed by Oliver Stone? A heartwarming romance starring Hugh Grant? A Will Ferrell comedy? Or a sprawling epic of bravery and history making events? I would love to believe that my life is an epic story of heroism and courage. Unfortunately, I live much of it like a Disney, straight to DVD forgetable film. The difference? Like movies, it’s often the cost that separates the great from the mediocre. It simply costs too much to do great things. Constant devotion to their instrument makes a musician great. Hours every day in front of a canvas allows a painter to make color and shade come alive. And a focused life of prayer, fasting, worship, and selfless service equips a person to do great things for God, spilling over with beauty that inspires others to do the same. Like I said, the cost we are willing to pay is what makes the difference.
So what am I? What do I want my life to be? A four chord wonder or a radiant benediction swelling with a depth and sincerity? Am I a made for TV movie or a massive life-changing film? I guess that depends on how much I’m willing to spend and whether or not I stick to my commitments to God and not be tempted by what comes easy. I guess it comes down to Psalms 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Am I going to produce the movie of my life to please God, or my self? Am I singing the song of my heart for God’s enjoyment or to impress others?
“Lord, as the song of my life is sung, let it be a masterpiece that is lovely to your ears and compelling to all who hear it. Give me the grace to keep living the epic when what is easy, comes natural, and is safe is calling my name. I love you!”