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Book Review: Alas, Babylon

Author: Pat Frank
Link: https://www.amazon.com/Alas-Babylon-Pat-Frank-2005-07-05/dp/B01LP8C66G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498945673&sr=8-2&keywords=Alas%2C+Babylon
Genre: fiction
Rating: Should Read (Rating System)

Publisher Bio

“Alas, Babylon.” Those fateful words heralded the end. When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness.

My Observation

It is dated. Written in 1950s but was a good representation of what would happen if nuclear war happened. Only difference is 2 generations later, it would be much worse. These people basically knew what to do. We would not.

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Book Review: I Can’t Make This Up

Author: Kevin Hart
Link: https://www.amazon.com/Cant-Make-This-Up-Lessons-ebook/dp/B01MYWFGRM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498945656&sr=8-1&keywords=I+Can%27t+Make+This+Up%3A+Life+Lessons
Genre:  non-fiction
Rating: Shakily Say… If You Have Time (Rating System)
Any Warnings: horrible language and crude humor

Publisher Bio

Superstar comedian and Hollywood box office star Kevin Hart turns his immense talent to the written word by writing some words. Some of those words include: the, a, for, above, and even even. Put them together and you have the funniest, most heartfelt, and most inspirational memoir on survival, success, and the importance of believing in yourself since Old Yeller.

The question you’re probably asking yourself right now is: What does Kevin Hart have that a book also has?
According to the three people who have seen Kevin Hart and a book in the same room, the answer is clear:
A book is compact. Kevin Hart is compact.
A book has a spine that holds it together. Kevin Hart has a spine that holds him together.
A book has a beginning. Kevin Hart’s life uniquely qualifies him to write this book by also having a beginning.

It begins in North Philadelphia. He was born an accident, unwanted by his parents. His father was a drug addict who was in and out of jail. His brother was a crack dealer and petty thief. And his mother was overwhelmingly strict, beating him with belts, frying pans, and his own toys.

The odds, in short, were stacked against our young hero, just like the odds that are stacked against the release of a new book in this era of social media (where Hart has a following of over 100 million, by the way). But Kevin Hart, like Ernest Hemingway, JK Rowling, and Chocolate Droppa before him, was able to defy the odds and turn it around. In his literary debut, he takes the reader on a journey through what his life was, what it is today, and how he’s overcome each challenge to become the man he is today. And that man happens to be the biggest comedian in the world, with tours that sell out football stadiums and films that have collectively grossed over $3.5 billion.

He achieved this not just through hard work, determination, and talent: It was through his unique way of looking at the world. Because just like a book has chapters, Hart sees life as a collection of chapters that each person gets to write for himself or herself. “Not only do you get to choose how you interpret each chapter, but your interpretation writes the next chapter,” he says. “So why not choose the interpretation that serves your life the best?”

My Observation

I enjoyed parts this book. It was vulgar but that’s Kevin. It was actually full of a guy who had nothing going for him but a dream and a will to make it happen. Lots of great wisdom here that anyone can use. The main lessons learned from this book is that talent nor opportunity is the key to success, it consistency that matters the most. Due to the vulgarity and extreme language I cannot recommend this book but I had to read about the most successful comedian in history.

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Book Review: The Way of the Shepherd

Author: Kevin Leman
Link: https://www.amazon.com/Way-Shepherd-Ancient-Managing-Productive-ebook/dp/B000SEPHKQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498945642&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Way+of+the+Shepherd%3A+7+Ancient+Secrets+to+Managing+Productive+People
Genre: non-fiction
RatingMust Read

Publisher Bio

Find inspiration and a fresh perspective on the art of leadership in this account of a cub reporter who lands the interview of a lifetime and walks away with the keys to exceptional leadership. When the reporter meets with the most respected CEO in America, the businessman shares the seven secrets he learned long ago from his mentor—an eccentric but brilliant professor who taught him proven management principles that, while ancient in origin, are applicable in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world.

The Way of the Shepherd is a compact, heart-warming story dotted with humor. It will teach you how to lead the people close to you so they will view their work as a calling rather than merely a job, a place to belong rather than a place to work. It shows leaders how to infuse work with meaning and how to engage, energize, and ignite their workforce and gives employees a better understanding of what makes for a quality work experience.

It is a powerful metaphor for leaders that reaches back 5,000 years. It is . . . The Way of the Shepherd.

My Observation

Simple, instructive book. I have always thought one of the greatest ways to understand leadership is to understand the life of a shepherd. Over and over again, the Bible calls us sheep. Therefore, the best way to understand how to lead others is to understand the way of the shepherd. I’ll break this book down into bite sized forms at a later time. Definitely worth reading and reflection.

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Book Review: Gospel Centered Counseling

Author: Robert Kellerman
Link: https://www.amazon.com/Gospel-Centered-Counseling-Equipping-Biblical-Counselors-ebook/dp/B00J1UJ8QW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498945626&sr=8-1&keywords=Gospel+Centered+Counseling
Genre:  non-fiction
Rating: If You Have Time (Rating System)

Publisher Bio

Everyone talks about the personal ministry of the Word, but how do we make one-another ministry truly biblical? Gospel-Centered Counseling equips readers to change lives with Christ s changeless truth. It does so by examining life s seven ultimate questions and then guiding readers on a journey that explores the biblical, gospel-centered narrative of:

The Word: What is truth? Where can I find answers? The Trinity: Who is God? Can I know Him personally? Creation: Who am I? What makes people tick? Fall: What went wrong? Why do we do the things we do? Redemption: Can I change? How do people change? Glorification: Where am I headed? How does our future destiny impact our present reality? Sanctification: How can I help? How can I change lives?”

Bob Kellemen builds on the foundation of the written Word and provides a gospel-centered resource for understanding people, diagnosing problems, and prescribing biblically-based solutions.

Gospel-Centered Counseling is the first volume in The Equipping Christian Counselors Series, a comprehensive relational training curriculum for the local church that provides a model for equipping God s people to change lives with Christ s changeless truth. This two-volume series weaves together comprehensive biblical insight with compassionate Christian engagement.”

My Observation

This book gave me more to think about than any I have had in a long time. There were parts of this book that I agreed with completely and part that seemed dangerous. The part I loved was how to see all issues we deal with as a chance for God to bring healing into our lives. The dangerous part was when the author says that medication and any form of therapy other than prayer does not work. It is dangerous to say that God can only move through one form or another. The truth is God can move in any way He deems necessary to make people whole. Definitely felt conflicted when putting this book away.

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Book Review: Being Leaders

Author: Aubrey Malphurs
Link: https://www.amazon.com/Being-Leaders-Authentic-Christian-Leadership-ebook/dp/B00CA0VTXA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498945614&sr=8-1&keywords=Being+Leaders
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: Should Read (Rating System)

Publisher Bio

What makes a leader a Christian leader? Too many churches and parachurch groups operate under secular leadership principles and strategies without considering what Scripture teaches. In this accessible and comprehensive book, leadership expert Aubrey Malphurs articulates a working definition of Christian leadership based on the Bible and his own extensive research.
Malphurs begins by defining a uniquely Christian leader from the inside out, from godly character and commitment to pure motives and a servant attitude. He examines the leaders of the first-century church and then discusses qualities such as credibility, capability, and influence that are essential for successful leadership. Each chapter contains helpful questions for reflection and discussion. The appendix includes numerous audits to help readers evaluate themselves on various leadership components.
Being Leaders is the first book of a two-part series on leadership. The companion book will address the how-to of building leaders.

My Observation

This is a great book on the ‘art’ of leadership from a Christian worldview. It would make a great textbook for leadership classes.

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Book Review: The Measure of Our Success

Author: Shawn Lovejoy
Link: https://www.amazon.com/Measure-Our-Success-Impassioned-Pastors/dp/0801014603/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498945473&sr=8-2&keywords=The+Measure+of+Our+Success
Genre:  non-fiction
Rating: Must Read (Rating System)

Publisher Bio

Using Scripture, personal examples, and case studies, Lovejoy leads pastors back to their first love, and in doing so he leads them toward a more effective and joy-filled ministry.

My Observation

Great book about proper expectations in ministry. Our job is to make God proud and nothing else. It reminds me of a great quote by Larry Osbourne. He says that he reminds himself all the time, “You have nothing to prove and no one to impress.” This book helps every pastor find the truth north for our limitless ambition.

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Book Review: Neverwhere

Author: Neil Gaiman
Link: https://www.amazon.com/Neverwhere-Novel-Neil-Gaiman-ebook/dp/B000FC130E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498945453&sr=8-1&keywords=neverwhere
Genre:  fiction
Rating: If You Have Time (Rating System)
Any Warnings: some language and violent scenes described.

Publisher Bio

Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.  Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

My Observation

Purely for entertainment reading. I listened to this as a BBC production radio theater. Loved it. Drew me in immediately. I do not like most of Neil Gaiman’s books based on his obsession with Norse Mythology. However, this book was very original with many twists and turns.

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Why I Am Taking Two Weeks Off!

“Brothers, do not grow weary in doing good”

2 Thessalonians 3:13

THE BASICS

I am doing something beginning this coming Monday morning that will most likely go unnoticed by most of the people in my sphere of influence. Most people will not notice that I will be taking a complete break from ministry for two straight weeks. I mean, it is only two weeks. For 99.99% of our church, this will not be a big deal. However, since I have not done anything like this before, there will always be those who think something is wrong. Why else would a pastor take time off, right? The only time you ever seem to hear about pastors is when something is going wrong in their lives. Well, not this time. It is actually because things are going so well that I am going to begin adding scheduled times away from ministry. These two weeks are the beginning of something I am going to do every Summer and throughout the year as a way to rest, get refreshed, plan for the future, and celebrate the journey.

The statistics of ministry are staggering and heart breaking. There are too many ministers who are quitting and forgetting why they started in ministry to begin with. The reason for this, in my opinion, is because they became so tired that they simply quit rather than resting and recovering. This will not be me. My goal is to finish strong and that means rest must happen. Here are some ministry statistics.

MINISTRY STATISTICS
*53 % are often concerned about their family’s financial security
48 % often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle
21 % say their church has unrealistic expectations of them
77% of the pastors we surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage.
75% of the pastors we surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. This left them disheartened in their ability to pastor.
72% of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons.
38% of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
30% said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.
90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.
95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.
33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
75% report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged as role of pastors.
90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different from what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
33% confess having involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church.
50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
94% of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastor’s ministry.
80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
80% spouses feel left out and under appreciated by church members.
80% of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose a different profession.
66% of church members expect a minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves.
The profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman”.
4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month , many without cause.
Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.

*Disclaimer– The purpose behind giving you these is just to say that the office of a pastor is not an easy lifestyle. I am NOT saying that many or even most of these apply to me directly. However, I will say that some are pretty close to home.

WHY TIME OFF IS GOOD

  • A pastor has emotional highs and lows unlike most other vocations. In the course of a day, a pastor can deal with death, deep spiritual issues, great encouragement, petty criticisms, tragedies, illnesses, and celebrations of birth. The emotional roller coaster is draining. Your pastor needs a break—many times a break with no distractions.
  • A pastor is on 24-hour call. Most pastors don’t have an “off” switch. They go to sleep with the knowledge they could be awakened by a phone call at anytime of the day. Vacations are rarely uninterrupted. It can be an exhausting vocation, and a sabbatical can be a welcome time to slow down.
  • Pastors need time of uninterrupted study. It doesn’t usually happen in the study at church or home. There is always the crisis or need of the moment. Church members expect sermons that reflect much prayer and study. The pastor’s schedule often works against that ideal. The sabbatical can offer much needed, and uninterrupted, study time.
  • Pastors who have time off have longer tenure at churches. Though my information is anecdotal, I do see the trend. And while I cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship, I feel confident that pastors who have sabbaticals are much more likely to stay at a church because they are less likely to experience burnout.
  • Pastors who have time off view the time off as an affirmation from their churches. I have heard from many pastors who share with me a sentence similar to this one: “I know my church loves me because they give me time off.” Pastors need affirmation. Time off can accomplish that goal.

So, it’s because I love what I do and the people I serve that periods of time away from the weekly grind and the weekend responsibilities will be happening more and more. My goal will be to take time off during the year and to have one time of at least two to three weeks off during the summer so I can be one of the blessed few who finish well. There are still so many more years to come. I plan to get there with my health, family, and church still tact.

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Book Review: Death By Black Hole

Author: Neil Degrasse Tyson
Genre:  non-fiction
My rating: If you have time (probably won’t change your day to day life)
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Death-Black-Hole-Cosmic-Quandaries/dp/039335038X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492715751&sr=1-1&keywords=Death+By+Black+Hole

From the Publisher:

“[Tyson] tackles a great range of subjects . . . with great humor, humility, andmost important humanity.” Entertainment Weekly

Loyal readers of the monthly “Universe” essays in Natural History magazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson’s talent for guiding them through the mysteries of the cosmos with clarity and enthusiasm. Bringing together more than forty of Tyson’s favorite essays, ?Death by Black Hole? explores a myriad of cosmic topics, from what it would be like to be inside a black hole to the movie industry’s feeble efforts to get its night skies right. One of America’s best-known astrophysicists, Tyson is a natural teacher who simplifies the complexities of astrophysics while sharing his infectious fascination for our universe.

My Observation:

It was good. This book is a textbook for many students jumping into the astrophysical world so I would not call it “light reading”. Death By Black Hole reveals just what level of geek I really am. I thoroughly enjoyed it. From a Christian WorldView (which the author does not share), it is fascinating to see how God has created the Universe and how we have tried to define it. I would not recommend this book for everyone but those out there who are still curious about how the universe works, it is something fun to read. 

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Book Review: The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You

Author: John Ortberg
Genre:  non-fiction
My Rating: Must read
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Me-Want-Be-Becoming-Version/dp/031034056X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492715684&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Me+I+Want+to+Be

From the Publisher:

The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg—the bestselling author of When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box; God Is Closer Than You Think; and The Life You’ve Always Wanted—will help you discover spiritual vitality like never before as you learn to “live in the flow of the spirit.” But if God has a perfect vision for your life, why does spiritual growth seem so difficult? John Ortberg has some intriguing answers to that question, and he has organized his thoughts and God’s words into a straightforward and timely guide for living your best life in The Me I Want to Be. This book will show how God’s perfect vision for you starts with a powerful promise. All those who trust in God “will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Ortberg urges you to recognize your brokenness, understand that God is the project manager, and follow His directions. The author first helps gauge your spiritual health and measure the gap between where you are now and where God intends you to be. Then he provides detailed tasks and exercises to help you live in the flow of the Spirit, circumventing real-world barriers—pain and sorrow, temptations, self-doubt, sin—to flourish even in a dark and broken world. As you start living in the flow, you will feel: — a deeper connection with God — a growing sense of joy — an honest recognition of your brokenness — less fear, more trust — a growing sense of being “rooted in love” — a deeper sense of purpose God invites you to join Him in crafting an abundant and joy-filled life. The Me I Want to Be shows you how to graciously accept His invitation.

My Observation:

Where has John Ortberg been? How have I missed this author? Wow. This book spoke directly to my soul and left me stopping after almost every page to consider what was written. This book is one of those that you read again as soon as you finish it. Every Christian should read this book and grow.

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Book Review: Better Than Good: Creating a Life You Can’t Wait to Live

Author: Zig Ziglar
Genre:  non-fiction
My Rating: Must read
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Better-Than-Good-Creating-Life/dp/0785289194/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492715615&sr=1-1&keywords=Better+Than+Good

From the Publisher:

The Ultimate Challenge: To Be Better Than Good

He has spent his life helping other people to realize their dreams and experience maximum success. Now comes Zig Ziglar’s high-impact work that calls you to the passion, purpose, and practical tools that can ignite the peak performance you long for.

In the real-life stories Zig shares, drawn from nearly fifty years as a world-class motivatinal author, speaker, and businessman, you’ll discover how others have risen above fear and failure to embrace the quality of life they were meant to have. Their experiences will teach you how to accomplish more than you ever dreamed possible, even as you learn: the three pillars of the Better Than Good, life new discoveries that will motivate you for life, how to develop a strategic plan that accomplishes your goals, what often keeps good people from reaching the ultimate level of productivity and happiness, ways to form better-than-good habits that can take you to new horizons of success . . . and much, much more!

Let the master of motivating help you clear your mind of failure-prone thinking, as together with Zig Ziglar, you redefine success and take hold of your dreams. Let him inspire you to be Better Than Good!

My Observation:

I do not believe there is anyone who can encourage and motivate quite like Zig Ziglar. He has a way of making the impossible seem not only possible but fairly simple. This book is on my yearly reading list and should probably be on a monthly reading list. Everyone needs a daily dose of Zig Ziglar. 

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Book Review: Running with the Giants: What the Old Testament Heroes Want You to Know About Life and Leadership

Author:  John Maxwell
Genre:  non-fiction
My Rating: Must read
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Running-Giants-Testament-Heroes-Leadership/dp/0446530697/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492715527&sr=1-1&keywords=running+with+the+giants

From the Publisher:

Motivational guru John C. Maxwell finds inspiration and encouragement in the lives of Old Testament personalities.

My Observation:

I mean, come on… it’s John Maxwell. It must be good!
Seriously though, many people forget that long before Maxwell was a world renown leadership guru, he was a successful pastor. He has said often that his reason for moving into the ‘business world’ and away from pastoring was because he wanted to reach business leaders. He said he realized the best way to win a company was to win the leader. This book was so good, I recently used it to do a message series at Real Life Church. Highly recommend reading both for leadership tips and also for devotional reading. 

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