The last week of the year is a sort of ‘clean up’ week for me in many ways. I look back over the previous year and assess how things went. It’s important to take time and celebrate, repent, purge, invest, forgive, and ask forgiveness so you can walk into the new year with a fresh start. This overall assessment covers everything from the deep issues of my heart to what apps I have on my cell phone. It is sort of like Spring cleaning in the middle of winter. While going through my phone and deleting old apps, I thought it might be fun to list the top apps that I have enjoyed the most this year. Hope you like it. Here we go in no particular order:
Is it just me or does it seem like the weeks leading up to Christmas come and go so quickly and then the week after Christmas drags on and on? There is so much expectation for Christmas with people to see, parties to attend, candles to light at Christmas services. Then, the big day comes and many feel the anxiety of now facing a new year.
For the past few years, instead of dreading the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I have come to look forward to it. It has become a time for reflection and preparation. What has been amazing is to find how good years really were after asking the right questions. I have also found myself genuinely excited for New Year’s to come after properly setting up the correct expectations.
So, what is the best way to spend your “low week”? The answer is to rest, reflect, remember, celebration, repent, and prepare to move forward. Below are some questions to journal about throughout the week as you put this year “to bed’ and prepare to “wake up” 2018.
Attitude is so important in almost everything we do. How you approach life makes a big difference on success, failure and how you enjoy the journey. Someone once said that those who think they can and those who think they cannot are both right. Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees a problem in every opportunity. An optimist sees an opportunity in every problem.”
I love the idea of having the right attitude and seeing the silver lining in every dark cloud. This does not mean we deny the dark cloud is there. We are simply saying that is not ALL that is there. Below is an article originally posted here. It is a great contrast of the way you can view your life. Which point of view are you going to have? Are you going to be a dog or a cat? Enjoy…
There are dog people and then there are cat people…and, of course, there are people who can appreciate both. I definitely fall into that final category.
Dogs have provided me with hours of endless enjoyment. Their dopey faces, playful attitudes, hilarious expressions always bring great joy to the people who own them. Just ask the owner of this Boston terrier who rides around on a vacuum.
Cats, on the other hand, can sometimes be withholding with their affection. It can take a cat a while to warm up to you, and even then you’re never really sure what they’re thinking. Sometimes, actually, they can even seem downright mean, like this cat who stole a dog’s toy.
These diary entries below perfectly encapsulate what’s going on inside a dog’s and cat’s mind through diary entries. It’s no wonder that they’ve been going viral online — they’re hilarious!
This time of year can be some of the best and some of the most challenging days you will experience all year. Thinking about this prompted me to share an article I recently read in the Huffington Post that shares 10 ways to enjoy the holiday season. Enjoy.
1. Set an intention for this holiday season. It can be as broad or specific as you wish, but take a moment to consider how you’d like to spend this time and where you want to focus your time and energy. This simple action creates awareness, and will help you prioritize.
2. Acknowledge your entrenched holiday habits. The force of habit (also known as our habit energy) is the momentum that propels us down familiar paths in life. Even when we’ve acknowledged the need to change our habits, it’s easy to stay in autopilot. Change requires a conscious effort. You likely have specific holiday season patterns, such as rushing, over-committing, overspending or over consuming. What else? Without blaming yourself, look at these habits and ask: Do these habits serve me well?
3. Practice compassionate listening with friends and family. In order to truly appreciate the time we have with loved-ones, we must be fully present. The perfect time to practicecompassionate listing is when it’s most difficult to remain present — when we have disagreements with a loved one or strong emotions have built up over time. When we leave our body and disconnect our consciousness from the present moment, we miss valuable lessons, connections and understanding. Remember to observe whatever emotions arise, and to treat yourself with loving compassion too.
4. Take time to do nothing. Even a few restful moments in between activities, or at the end of the night, can reduce stress and improve awareness and mood. Remember: Doing nothing doesn’t mean checking email or chatting on the phone. Need some help winding down? Consult the “Doing Nothing” guide.
5. Just breathe. We put so much on our to-do list that we may be stacking up tasks back to back. We need mini breaks to refresh ourselves. For example, if you are waiting for a slice of bread to come out of the toaster, refrain from doing another task. Take the two minutes to just breathe…
“Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.”
6. Start or renew your meditation practice. Do NOT add meditation to your to-do list. Instead, consider it a tool to enhance your everyday experiences. Meditate while standing in line, while cooking, or while walking down the street. Regular meditation can improve focus, reduce stress and anxiety and offer great joy.
7. Invite deep sleep with a bedtime meditation:
“Breathing in, I am conscious of all that I still have to do
Breathing out, I park them in my ‘to-do’ box until tomorrow to get a good rest”
8. Savor sweets. Treats are some of the best foods to savor as they are so rich in flavor. And if we really enjoy them, we are less likely to mindlessly over-consume them. Eating while full of guilt isn’t helpful. Choose your sweets thoughtfully, and enjoy them fully.
9. Enjoy the splendor of this time! The 2011 holiday season will soon be over. Relish the unique sights, smells and sounds. Do not miss the magical moments!!
An inspirational passage on impermanence from Thich Nhat Hanh:
Nothing remains the same for two consecutive moments. Heraclitus said we can never bathe twice in the same river. Confucius, while looking at a stream, said, “It is always flowing, day and night.” The Buddha implored us not just to talk about impermanence, but to use it as an instrument to help us penetrate deeply into reality and obtain liberating insight.
10. Give thanks. Recent studies show that practicing gratitude improves health, perspective and relationships. Practicing gratitude reminds us that we are part of a beautiful whole, supported and loved. When you begin to feel stressed, alone or anxious, consider the things you are thankful for.
This Coming Sunday we will be debuting a new series at RLC on Legacy. The opening message contains some theology that is rarely taught in most modern Christian circles. On Sunday morning, I do not have the time to dive into the theology as much as I would like. Therefore, here is a little more explanation for those interested in digger deeper. This article is only one of many you can find if you type into google, “Different between the ‘Great White Throne Judgement’ and the ‘Bema.’”
Question: “What is the Great White Throne Judgment and How Does it Differ From the Judgement Seat of Christ or the Bema?”
Answer: The great white throne judgment is described in Revelation 20:11-15 and is the final judgment prior to the lost being cast into the lake of fire. We know from Revelation 20:7-15 that this judgment will take place after the millennium and after Satan, the beast, and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10). The books that are opened (Revelation 20:12) contain records of everyone’s deeds, whether they are good or evil, because God knows everything that has ever been said, done, or even thought, and He will reward or punish each one accordingly (Psalm 28:4; 62:12; Romans 2:6; Revelation 2:23; 18:6; 22:12).
Also at this time, another book is opened, called the “book of life” (Revelation 20:12). It is this book that determines whether a person will inherit eternal life with God or receive everlasting punishment in the lake of fire. Although Christians are held accountable for their actions, they are forgiven in Christ and their names were written in the “book of life from the creation of the world” (Revelation 17:8). We also know from Scripture that it is at this judgment when the dead will be “judged according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:12) and that “anyone’s name” that is not “found written in the book of life” will be “thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
The fact that there is going to be a final judgment for all men, both believers and unbelievers, is clearly confirmed in many passages of Scripture. Every person will one day stand before Christ and be judged for his or her deeds. While it is very clear that the great white throne judgment is the final judgment, Christians disagree on how it relates to the other judgments mentioned in the Bible, specifically, who will be judged at the great white throne judgment.
Some Christians believe that the Scriptures reveal three different judgments to come. The first is the judgment of the sheep and the goats or a judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-36). This takes place after the tribulation period but prior to the millennium; its purpose is to determine who will enter the millennial kingdom. The second is a judgment of believers’ works, often referred to as the “judgment seat [bema] of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). At this judgment, Christians will receive degrees of reward for their works or service to God. The third is the great white throne judgment at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:11-15). This is the judgment of unbelievers in which they are judged according to their works and sentenced to everlasting punishment in the lake of fire.
Other Christians believe that all three of these judgments speak of the same final judgment, not of three separate judgments. In other words, the great white throne judgment in Revelation 20:11-15 will be the time that believers and unbelievers alike are judged. Those whose names are found in the book of life will be judged for their deeds in order to determine the rewards they will receive or lose. Those whose names are not in the book of life will be judged according to their deeds to determine the degree of punishment they will receive in the lake of fire. Those who hold this view believe that Matthew 25:31-46 is another description of what takes place at the great white throne judgment. They point to the fact that the result of this judgment is the same as what is seen after the great white throne judgment in Revelation 20:11-15. The sheep (believers) enter into eternal life, while the goats (unbelievers) are cast into “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46).
Whichever view one holds of the great white throne judgment, it is important to never lose sight of the facts concerning the coming judgment(s). First, Jesus Christ will be the judge, all unbelievers will be judged by Christ, and they will be punished according to the works they have done. The Bible is very clear that unbelievers are storing up wrath against themselves (Romans 2:5) and that God will “give to each person according to what he has done” (Romans 2:6). Believers will also be judged by Christ, but since Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us and our names are written in the book of life, we will be rewarded, but not punished, according to our deeds. Romans 14:10-12 says that we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and that each one of us will give an account to God.
Article first appeared on: www.gotquestions.org
Other recommended reading: Heaven by Randy Alcorn
Author: Tom Rainer
Rating: Must Read
The simple revolution is here. From the iPod design to Google’s uncluttered homepage, simple ideas are changing the world.
Multi-awarded #1 national bestseller Simple Church guides Christians back to the simple gospel-sharing methods of Jesus. No bells or whistles required. Based on case studies of 400 American churches, Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger prove the disciple-making process is often too complex. Simple churches thrive by taking four ideas to heart: Clarity. Movement. Alignment. Focus.
Simple Church Examines each idea, clearly showing why it is time to simplify.
This book is the playbook for success. So much easier to do if you are a young church though.
Author: Sam Chand
Rating: Must Read
Strategies for transforming a toxic church culture Why is it that the best strategic plans and good leadership often are not able to move churches in the desired direction? Sam Chand contends that toxic culture is to blame. Quite often, leaders don’t sense the toxicity, but it poisons their relationships and derails their vision. This work describes five easily identifiable categories of church culture (inspiring-accepting-stagnant-discouraging-toxic), with diagnostic descriptions in the book and a separate online assessment tool. The reader will be able to identify strengths and needs of their church’s culture, and then apply practical strategies (communication, control and authority, selection and placement of personnel, etc.) to make their church’s culture more positive.
Discusses how to diagnose the state of a church’s culture Reveals what it takes to put in place effective strategies for creating a more positive church culture Author served on the board of EQUIP (Dr. John Maxwell’s Ministry), equipping five million leaders world-wide. This important book offers a clear guide for understanding and recreating a healthy church culture.
Just finished reading this with staff. Good book. So important. My favorite quote is, “Culture is more important than vision.” This is so true. You can have the best vision in the world but unless it is planted in the right culture, it will not yield any harvest.
Author: Tim Jerome
Rating: If You Have Time (Rating System)
Any Warnings: Gruesome scenes of violence when the crew of the voyage interact with Indians.
Ferdinand Magellan’s daring circumnavigation of the globe in the sixteenth century was a three-year odyssey filled with sex, violence, and amazing adventure. Now in Over the Edge of the World, prize-winning biographer and journalist Laurence Bergreen entwines a variety of candid, firsthand accounts, bringing to life this groundbreaking and majestic tale of discovery that changed both the way explorers would henceforth navigate the oceans and history itself.
It was actually really good. Hard to believe this was possible during that time. It’s really sad, though, that Magellan did not live to see the end of the voyage. He actually died in a trick ambush by natives to an island they came across. He also had to deal with several mutinies and such. His navigation of the globe seemed the easy part.
Author: Doris Kerns Goodwin
Rating: Must Read (Rating System)
The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can’t help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln’s leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln’s political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. These men, all accomplished, nationally known, and presidential, originally disdained Lincoln for his backwoods upbringing and lack of experience, and were shocked and humiliated at losing to this relatively obscure Illinois lawyer. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration–Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general–he ultimately gained their admiration and respect as well. How he soothed egos, turned rivals into allies, and dealt with many challenges to his leadership, all for the sake of the greater good, is largely what Goodwin’s fine book is about. Had he not possessed the wisdom and confidence to select and work with the best people, she argues, he could not have led the nation through one of its darkest periods.
Ten years in the making, this engaging work reveals why “Lincoln’s road to success was longer, more tortuous, and far less likely” than the other men, and why, when opportunity beckoned, Lincoln was “the best prepared to answer the call.” This multiple biography further provides valuable background and insights into the contributions and talents of Seward, Chase, and Bates. Lincoln may have been “the indispensable ingredient of the Civil War,” but these three men were invaluable to Lincoln and they played key roles in keeping the nation intact. –Shawn Carkonen
Team of Rivals doesn’t just tell the story of Abraham Lincoln. It is a multiple biography of the entire team of personal and political competitors that he put together to lead the country through its greatest crisis. Here, Doris Kearns Goodwin profiles five of the key players in her book, four of whom contended for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination and all of whom later worked together in Lincoln’s cabinet.
1. Edwin M. Stanton– Stanton treated Lincoln with utter contempt at their initial acquaintance when the two men were involved in a celebrated law case in the summer of 1855. Unimaginable as it might seem after Stanton’s demeaning behavior, Lincoln offered him “the most powerful civilian post within his gift”–the post of secretary of war–at their next encounter six years later. On his first day in office as Simon Cameron’s replacement, the energetic, hardworking Stanton instituted “an entirely new regime” in the War Department. After nearly a year of disappointment with Cameron, Lincoln had found in Stanton the leader the War Department desperately needed. Lincoln’s choice of Stanton revealed his singular ability to transcend personal vendetta, humiliation, or bitterness. As for Stanton, despite his initial contempt for the man he once described as a “long armed Ape,” he not only accepted the offer but came to respect and love Lincoln more than any person outside of his immediate family. He was beside himself with grief for weeks after the president’s death.
2. Salmon P. Chase– Chase, an Ohioan, had been both senator and governor, had played a central role in the formation of the national Republican Party, and had shown an unflagging commitment to the cause of the black man. No individual felt he deserved the presidency as a natural result of his past contributions more than Chase himself, but he refused to engage in the practical methods by which nominations are won. He had virtually no campaign and he failed to conciliate his many enemies in Ohio itself. As a result, he alone among the candidates came to the convention without the united support of his own state. Chase never ceased to underestimate Lincoln, nor to resent the fact that he had lost the presidency to a man he considered his inferior. His frustration with his position as secretary of the treasury was alleviated only by his his dogged hope that he, rather than Lincoln, would be the Republican nominee in 1864, and he steadfastly worked to that end. The president put up with Chase’s machinations and haughty yet fundamentally insecure nature because he recognized his superlative accomplishments at treasury. Eventually, however, Chase threatened to split the Republican Party by continuing to fill key positions with partisans who supported his presidential hopes. When Lincoln stepped in, Chase tendered his resignation as he had three times before, but this time Lincoln stunned Chase by calling his bluff and accepting the offer.
3. Abraham Lincoln– When Lincoln won the Republican presidential nomination in 1860 he seemed to have come from nowhere–a backwoods lawyer who had served one undistinguished term in the House of Representatives and lost two consecutive contests for the U.S. Senate. Contemporaries attributed his surprising nomination to chance, to his moderate position on slavery, and to the fact that he hailed from the battleground state of Illinois. But Lincoln’s triumph, particularly when viewed against the efforts of his rivals, owed much to a remarkable, unsuspected political acuity and an emotional strength forged in the crucible of hardship and defeat. That Lincoln, after winning the presidency, made the unprecedented decision to incorporate his eminent rivals into his political family, the cabinet, was evidence of an uncanny self-confidence and an indication of what would prove to others a most unexpected greatness.
4. William H. Seward- A celebrated senator from New York for more than a decade and governor of his state for two terms before going to Washington, Seward was certain he was going to receive his party’s nomination for president in 1860. The weekend before the convention in Chicago opened he had already composed a first draft of the valedictory speech he expected to make to the Senate, assuming that he would resign his position as soon as the decision in Chicago was made. His mortification at not having received the nomination never fully abated, and when he was offered his cabinet post as secretary of state he intended to have a major role in choosing the remaining cabinet members, conferring upon himself a position in the new government more commanding than that of Lincoln himself. He quickly realized the futility of his plan to relegate the president to a figurehead role. Though the feisty New Yorker would continue to debate numerous issues with Lincoln in the years ahead, exactly as Lincoln had hoped and needed him to do, Seward would become his closest friend, advisor, and ally in the administration. More than any other cabinet member Seward appreciated Lincoln’s peerless skill in balancing factions both within his administration and in the country at large.
5. Edward Bates- A widely respected elder statesman, a delegate to the convention that framed the Missouri Constitution, and a former Missouri congressman whose opinions on national matters were still widely sought, Bates’s ambitions for political success were gradually displaced by love for his wife and large family, and he withdrew from public life in the late 1840s. For the next 20 years he was asked repeatedly to run or once again accept high government posts but he consistently declined. However in early 1860, with letters and newspaper editorials advocating his candidacy crowding in upon him, he decided to try for the highest office in the land. After losing to Lincoln he vowed, in his diary, to decline a cabinet position if one were to be offered, but with the country “in trouble and danger” he felt it was his duty to accept when Lincoln asked him to be attorney general. Though Bates initially viewed Lincoln as a well-meaning but incompetent administrator, he eventually concluded that the president was an unmatched leader, “very near being a ‘perfect man.'”
One of the best books I’ve ever read. I cannot think of anything better to say. It would be on my list of top three favorite books ever.
Author: Dallas Willard
Rating: Must Read (Rating System)
Logos Bookstores’ 2014 Best Book in Spirituality 2014 Readers’ Choice Award Winner 2014 Leadership Journal Best Books for Church Leaders (The Leader’s Inner Life) A Special Award of Merit, from Byron Borger, Hearts and Minds Bookstore In these pages Dallas Willard explores what it means to live well now in light of God’s kingdom. He reflects on the power of the Trinity in our lives, the meaning of knowledge, the importance of spiritual disciplines and much more. Dallas Willard offers poignant thoughts about what it will be like to transition into the very presence of Christ in heaven. This book is adapted from the talks given at the February 2013 Dallas Willard Center “Knowing Christ Today” conference in Santa Barbara, California. Each chapter is followed with an illuminating dialogue between Dallas Willard and John Ortberg. The book closes with the theme of offering a blessing to one another. These reflections form an apt conclusion to Dallas Willard’s public ministry. It is a gift of grace.
I should be reading this monthly. Dallas Willard is an amazing author and Christian thinker. He explains the Christ-life in such a way that makes you want to be more like Christ. Every time I put this book down I found myself wanting to go into a time of prayer just to spend time with God after reading more on how much He loves me.
Author: Richard Preston
Rating: If You Are Bored (Rating System)
Any Warnings: nasty descriptions of what viruses do to the body
The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus. A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic “hot” virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their “crashes” into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.
This was actually really interesting book about how the Ebola Virus almost got loose in America and not far from Washington DC.
Author: Jay Asher
Rating: Don’t Waste Your Time(Rating System)
Any Warnings: Do not recommend for teenagers.
You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
At this time of reading this book there is a big uproar about a new Netflix show made after this book called “Thirteen Reasons Why”. I have getting asked about it over and over. When something like this happens my usual move is to go back to the source material before making a determination. What I found was an author taking a real issue and glamorizing it. This book honestly made me sick. Suicide is never the answer. Suicide is a terrible thing and show never be glamorized. Many people who have dealt with suicide have said they contemplated ending their life was so that others would notice them. This book says that it worked. I would never recommend this book for anyone who’s even mildly depressed. The author was quoted as saying he wrote this book in order to get people talking. I think it has but not the right conversations.