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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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Book Review: The Longest Day

Author: Corneluis Ryan
Genre:  non-fiction, history
My rating: If you have time
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Longest-Day-Classic-Epic-D-Day/dp/0671890913/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492715458&sr=1-2&keywords=The+Longest+Day+

From the Publisher:

The Longest Day is Cornelius Ryan’s unsurpassed account of D-Day, a book that endures as a masterpiece of military history. In this compelling tale of courage and heroism, glory and tragedy, Ryan painstakingly recreates the fateful hours that preceded and followed the massive invasion of Normandy to retell the story of an epic battle that would turn the tide against world fascism and free Europe from the grip of Nazi Germany.

This book, first published in 1959, is a must for anyone who loves history, as well as for anyone who wants to better understand how free nations prevailed at a time when darkness enshrouded the earth.

My Observation:

As a history fan, this book has been on my reading list for a while. What I found was a few a diamonds in a whole lot of rough. The book is a great piece one of the biggest battles in history. My only issue was that I was hoping for a little more backstory as to how the day came about. Still worth reading for all the history fans. My number one takeaway was learning that Eisenhower read Western novels to help get his mind off of the war. He would obsess over the details and would use Westerns to give his mind some piece. This resonated with me because this is exactly what I do only not with Western novels. I tend to get more into historical fiction and adventure fiction. 

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Thought for the Day

What could change in our life if we spent more time with God?

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All, Devotions, prayer|fasting
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Top Posts I Read The Week Of May 12th

So, over the past couple of weeks my heart has been struck by the need to study more on prayer. As Christians and leaders, we tend to be willing to do almost anything for God except pray. I cannot tell you the last time I talked to someone and they were overflowing with great things to say about their daily prayer time. After many conversations I do not think this is because we do not love God. We simply do not know how to pray or what prayer actually does. Therefore, this week’s top read posts is going to be all about some great prayer blog’s I have read this week.

The following are The Top Posts I Read The Week Of April 20th:

1. 50 Great Prayer Blogs
2. Three Keys to a Better Prayer Life
3. 6 Tips for a Better Prayer Life
4. The All-Time 10 Best Tips on Prayer for Beginners That I Have Ever Heard
5. What’s the Secret to a Great Prayer Life?
6. 8 Ways to Pray
7. How to Pray Better in Public and in Private, Too (Tim Keller)
8. A Better Way to Pray
9. 12 Secrets to praying more effectively
10. wikiHow to Pray Effectively (Christianity)
11. How to Pray Effectively (Rick Warren)
12. Tim Keller’s 5 Steps for Effective Prayer
13. How to Develop a Dynamic Prayer Life
14. 10 Tips to Help Your Prayer Life

Here’s the question for the day. What is one tip you would give someone to help their prayer life take a step forward?

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Book Review: From Pew to Pulpit: A Beginner’s Guide to Preaching

Author: Clifton Guthrie
Genre:  non-fiction
My Rating: Must read (for preachers)
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Pew-Pulpit-Beginners-Guide-Preaching/dp/0687066603/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492715242&sr=1-1&keywords=From+Pew+to+Pulpit+

From the Publisher:

A down-to-earth, practical introduction to the ins and outs of preaching for lay preachers, bivocational pastors, and others newly arrived in the pulpit.

Recent years have seen a considerable increase in the amount of financial resources required to support a full-time pastor in the local congregation. In addition, large numbers of full-time, seminary trained clergy are retiring, without commensurate numbers of new clergy able to take their place. As a result of these trends, a large number of lay preachers and bivocational pastors have assumed the principal responsibility for filling the pulpit week by week in local churches. Most of these individuals, observes Clifton Guthrie, can draw on a wealth of life experiences, as well as strong intuitive skills in knowing what makes a good sermon, having listened to them much of their lives. What they often don’t bring to the pulpit, however, is specific, detailed instruction in the how-tos of preaching. That is precisely what this brief, practical guide to preaching has to offer.

Written with the needs of those for whom preaching is not their sole or primary occupation in mind, it begins by emphasizing what every preacher brings to the pulpit: an idea of what makes a sermon particularly moving or memorable to them. From there the book moves into short chapters on choosing an appropriate biblical text or sermon topic, learning how to listen to one’s first impressions of what a text means, moving from text or topic to the sermon itself while keeping the listeners needs firmly in mind, making thorough and engaging use of stories in the sermon, and delivering with passion and conviction. The book concludes with helpful suggestions for resources, including Bibles, commentaries, other print resources and websites.

My Observation:

Many of the “preaching” books today focus a lot on “why” we preach or the health of the one doing the preaching. That is great but this book already assumes those books are there. Instead, this book is geared to help someone with little to no experience preaching and it helps them prepare for their turn on stage. I wish this book had of been familiar to me about 10 years ago. There are countless ideas and methods that can help not only the occasional exhorter but also the seasoned pastor. This book will also help cut down on your preparation time. You will not get much out of it if you are not a frequent speaker but if you are, add this to your annual read list. 

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Book Review: How’s Your Soul?

Author: Judah Smith
Genre: non-fiction
My rating: If you have time
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Hows-Your-Soul-Everything-Matters/dp/0718039173/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492715077&sr=1-1&keywords=how%27s+your+soul+judah+smith

From the Publisher: 

Judah Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Jesus Is ______, explores what it looks like to cultivate a healthy soul in the midst of a busy life and points readers to the soul’s only true home and place of rest and fulfillment: God.

“How’s your soul?”

It may seem like an odd question, but it’s what pastor and bestselling author Judah Smith chooses to ask his friends, rather than “How are you?” It’s a way to look past the externals and consider what’s going on inside, in that essential part of us that is often overlooked in the struggle to make our way through everyday life.

In the rush of living moment to moment, many of us find ourselves simply surviving, struggling daily with frustration, restlessness, boredom, and ever-fleeting joy. But if we would pause, we’d find that the things that matter most in life, what we are searching for in our busyness—stability, peace, hope, love—are rooted in the health of what Judah calls the “inside you.”

In How’s Your Soul?, Judah explores that “inside you.” Sharing his own, often humorous, mistakes and foibles, he helps us find our way through the emotional roller coasters of life to discover the soul-healing essentials of rest, responsibility, restraint, and relationships, all rooted in what he calls the soul’s only true home—God himself.

How’s Your Soul? is an invitation to find lasting emotional satisfaction and stability by bringing our feelings into alignment with God’s truth, moving beyond simply surviving, and learning how to live each day with eternal significance.

My Observation:

Honestly, this book had a few moments of brilliance but otherwise it wasn’t really for me. I don’t know if I didn’t like the book or I just expected something different. Either way, I admit being disappointed. It seemed a little too “surface” level for what I expected from Judah Smith. Judah seems to spend almost the whole book convincing us that his soul needs attention and if his does, our soul probably does too. The hope was to find a book that already assumes we know ours souls need nourishment and, instead, move straight into how to get that accomplished. Anyway, Judah Smith is a great author. If you have the time, read it and maybe you will get something a little more or at least a little different. 

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Top Posts I Read The Week Of April 20th

The following are The Top Posts I Read The Week Of April 20th:

  1. Train For Success
  2. Are You Exceptionally Likable? 9 Reasons People Decide They Like You
  3. Bad Body Language Habits You Need to Break ASAP
  4. Why Every Weekend Should Be A Three Day Weekend
  5. How The CEO Of Newman’s Own Carries On An Unconventional Legacy
  6. What Do the Most Successful CEOs Have in Common?
  7. Advice For Those Who Believe They Give Great Advice
  8. 10 Signs You’re a Follower Instead of a Leader

Well, that is my Top Posts for the week.  What other great posts did you read?

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My Book Reading Rating System

I have added a section to my book reviews and wanted to share them with you. This is in response to conversations I have had where people talk about not having much time for reading. They say that they only have time to read a few books a year so which ones are good but not necessary and which ones need more attention. Since it is not worth having the conversation about how we make time to do what we want to do so everyone has time to read, I decided to play along and add a rating system.

Here is my new book rating system and what they mean:

Must read– Add to the top of your reading list. This book is worth reading now. I will be reading it again. 

Should read– It’s a good book but not life changing. I might read this again but not likely. 

If you have time– This book is something that has enjoyment but nothing to go out of your way to read. Definitely don’t buy it. Instead, check for it at your local library. I will not be reading this book again. 

If you are bored– This book is something I sort of regret reading. I finished it but not with fond memories. If you read this one, you probably have nothing better to do. 

Don’t waste your time– Most likely did not finish this book. Get away from it quickly because it will most likely explode. 

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A Pastor’s Response to “I don’t feel God’s Presence at church”

The other day, I talked with a fellow pastor who was so discouraged. His church was being criticized by people saying they did not “feel God” at church. This pastor was brokenhearted. After reflecting on this a while and after much prayer, I felt the need to shed some light on what some may being feeling concerning the presence of God in church. This could easily be a lengthy blog series posting many different concepts, however, I will try to place this into bullet points.

First of all, let’s get on the same page about what the church is not and what it is. That may bring a lot of clarification by itself.
Church is not… a weekly church service.
Church is not… a building or club.
Church is not… a concert, gig, or party.
Church is… what that Bible calls the “Body of Christ” or the “Bride of Christ”.
Church is… the people of God.
Church is… a time when God’s people come together to celebrate and seek God together.

Now, here are SEVEN reasons why you MIGHT NOTfeel‘ the presence of God at church:

This list assumes you are already a born again believers and have a relationship with God.

1. God is under no obligation to touch you with His presence.

Don’t get me wrong. God wants His creation to feel His presence. That is why we were created. We were created for fellowship with Him. However, as King and Creator of the Universe, He is under no obligation to bless You with His presence just because you showed up for church that day. He is God and His agenda is not our own.

2. Sin separates us from God’s fellowship.

When you sin an break the heart of God, the sin in our lives separates our fellowship with Him. You can see evidence of this all the way back in the Garden of Eden. When the first two people sinned, the result was they had to be separated from God and His goodness. When Jesus paid for our sins by His death, burial, and resurrection our past, present, and future sin can be washed away. However, just because our sin is taken care of in the eyes of eternity, that does not mean there are no consequences for sin. The wages of sin still manifest themselves through earthly consequences and our separation from His presence. If you noticing a lack of God’s presence in your life, make sure there is no unconfessed sin in your life.

3. You get out what you put in.

When you go to church, what is your mindset? Are you ready and expecting God to meet you there or are you critical and wondering what will happen?  When I was sixteen, my parents made me buy my first car. When I asked why, my dad said, “So you will respect it more. You need buy-in.” There are too many people attending church today without any buy-in. They do not give, they do not serve, and they are not really part of the local congregation.  People around the world meet in houses, basements, huts, or underground caves. Therefore, perfection of the service flow has nothing to do with your experience with God. It’s more about the position of your heart and the hunger you have for God’s presence that makes the difference.

4. Do you support your pastors or criticize them?

Remember pastors are people too. It hurts when you are critical because they work hard to try and create environments where people can connect with God. Planning a worship experience is hard work.  It is physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. For me, it usually takes about three days to fully recover from each Sunday only to get ready to do it all over again. I love what God has called me to but that does not make it easier. Your pastor is looking for team players not Monday morning quarterbacks. Trust me, your pastor knows exactly where are the problems are and wants to fix it more than you do.  Join the team and help make things better.

5. The pastoral staff is trying harder than you probably realize.

There are probably exceptions to this one but, for the most part, your church is most likely trying harder than you are giving them credit. It takes a lot of time and energy to schedule people to serve, get the services scheduled, handle all the stuff that goes on outside of Sunday, pastoral care events, counseling, plugging people into ministry, crisis moments, sermon preparation, future planning, financial accountability, etc. The church does not do everything just on Sunday. Many times the church does not have a specific area of ministry covered because no one has stepped into that role yet. If there is an “empty spot” at church that drives you crazy, that could be God showing you an area for ministry. Jump on the team and help your church reach more people for the Kingdom of God.

6. The church needs you on the team not criticism.

I think I have covered this sufficiently above. The main idea is to realize nothing is made better by criticism. Jumping on the team and using your time, talents, and treasure is how you can help make things better.

7. You may be a victim of a consumer based culture.

Our culture is becoming more self-centered by the day. There are so many options and so many opportunities to get exactly what you want and exactly how you like it that we begin to believe all of life is supposed to be like that. Modern technology and opportunity is great but we must be careful not to allow ourselves to become spoiled and bring that into the Kingdom of God. The economy of God’s Kingdom is not being served but serving. Jesus said those who want to be first must be the last. It is those who sit in their chairs week after week complaining that end up receiving the least amount of God’s presence. Do not allow the enemy to lie to you by saying that church is all about meeting your needs. Church is a place to gather with your brother and sisters in Christ, celebrate the goodness of God, get equipped for reaching others, then going back out to win more people to Christ. You can look throughout church history. The only time the church began to become stagnant was when it thought only of itself and making itself feel good. As long as we are thinking about others, God’s presence will move among us.

There are more but these are the main points I feel some may be battling with as it relates to feeling God in your church. Let’s not allow the enemy to separate and divide us. Rather, let’s get on the same team and do the work of ministry. There are too many people living everyday without Jesus for us to criticize one another.

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8 Blessings We Get From Serving

We all want our lives to matter. It’s the reason we do the things we do. We chase promotions and leadership positions because we want to make a difference. We encourage our kids to go to college, get a good job, and make lots of money, in hopes that they, too, will make a difference.

There’s nothing wrong with wealth or influence, but those things alone won’t change the world and they aren’t what we were made for.

We were made to build the church (Ephesians 4:11-13). God made each one of with unique talents, personalities and skill sets. And when we ask Jesus into our lives, we’re given at least one spiritual gift. We get the most joy and make the biggest difference when we use our God-given talents, gifts and abilities to build the church (Ephesians 4:14-16).

8 Blessings We Experience By Serving Others:

1. Serving allows us to discover and develop our spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12 compares the church to a human body. Just like our bodies are made of many parts serving specific functions, the church is made up of people with different skills and abilities. Alone these pieces aren’t very useful, but together we create something beautiful.

2. Serving allows us to experience miracles.

In John 2, Jesus was at a wedding and the couple was running out of wine for its guests. He tells the servants to fill several big jars to the brim. When they served the water to the guests, it was wine! The guests never knew what happened; the servants were the ones who witnessed the miracle. The same is true for us when we serve.

3. Serving allows us to experience the joy and peace that comes from obedience.

1 Peter 4:10-11 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms… so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” Serving is a form of worship, a way to express gratitude for what Jesus has done for us,  and to share the love and grace we’ve been given.

4. Serving helps us to be more like Jesus.

We shift our focus off of ourselves onto others through serving.  We begin to see others as Jesus sees them.  And we see Jesus IN others (Matthew 25:40).

5. Serving surrounds us with other Christians who can help us follow Jesus.

When we’re working side by side with other people, a bond inevitably forms. This was part of God’s plan for how the church is supposed to work. That’s why Hebrews 10:24-25instructs us to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together… but encouraging one another.”

6. Serving increases our faith.

As we move out of our comfort zones, God increases our faith by revealing new potential — in ourselves and in His Church.  When we see what He can do when His power is at work within us, we begin looking for the doors He’s opening rather than pushing our way through the one’s He’s closed (Ephesians 3:20).

7. Serving allows us to experience God’s presence in new ways.

Encouragement and healing go hand in hand. As we encourage others and they find healing, we’re encouraged. It’s the reason so many people who go on mission trips say they came home feeling like they got more than they gave.

8. Serving is good for your soul.

Studies have shown that volunteering is so good for the mind and body that it can ease symptoms of stress and depression. Tapping into our gifts and passions builds self-confidence, energy, and strength.  Serving others can also be the best distraction from our own worries.

We make all sorts of rational explanations for not serving:

I don’t have time.

I don’t know what I would do.

I don’t have any special skills to contribute.

They don’t need me.

But the reality is the Lord doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called. God used men and women with similar doubts to change the course of history. Moses didn’t think he was a leader or speaker, but God worked through Moses to bring Israel out of slavery. David was the youngest (and therefore most insignificant) of all his brothers, but God worked through David to defeat a giant and eventually made him a king. Paul used to kill Christians before he met Jesus, but he went on to become one of the most highly-regarded and prolific writers/church planters in history.

 

 

Guest blog post by: Veronica Sexton

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Why Did People Live So Long in Genesis?

Have you ever read through the first part of the Bible and wondered, “How did everyone before the flood live so long?” Honestly for some people, this can create a big problem with their faith because it is hard to get this concept in their heads. To help you get your mind around this, I have a few links for you to read more on the subject and a guest blog post as well. Happy reading and I pray your faith increases as your understanding increases.

Read: Did People Like Adam and Noah Really Live Over 900 Years of Age?

Read: Why Did the People Live So Long before the Flood?

Read: How and Why Did People in the Bible Live So Long?

Here’s more information from guest blogger Don Stewart:

If we accept the ages in Genesis as literal, then we need to answer the question as to why these individuals lived so long. There are several possible reasons to consider as to why the ancients lived longer than modern humankind.

1.Created To Live Forever

Adam and Eve were created to live eternally. The introduction of sin brought on death (Romans 5:12). However, the degenerating processes had only begun to take place with them and their immediate descendants. This could also account for their longer life spans.

2.Lack Of Disease

There would also be a lack of disease at this early time. Since Adam and Eve fell from a perfect state, it would have taken some time for disease to increase. This could have also contributed to the longevity of the patriarchs.

3.Help Populate The Earth

If the earth were to be populated by humankind, (Genesis 1:26) then long life-spans at the beginning were somewhat of a necessity. Otherwise it would have taken an enormous amount of time to fulfill the commandment to fill the earth with people.

4.Accumulation Of Knowledge

Furthermore, if the early inhabitants of the earth did live for long periods of time, then they would have accumulated knowledge to help them survive longer. Scripture does tell us that early man made advances in such things as metallurgy and music (Genesis 4:21,22; 11:6). We should also assume they made advances in other areas-including those which would help them live a long time.

5.Climatic Conditions

Climatic conditions could have been a factor in the longevity of the ancients. There was a possible water vapor canopy that surrounded the earth before the Flood of Noah. This canopy would have produced a worldwide greenhouse effect resulting in a mild climate throughout the earth. In addition, this canopy would shield man from harmful radiation which has an effect on the aging process. At the great Flood this canopy collapsed and no longer protected man and the animals.

After the Flood the ages in which people lived fell off dramatically. The Bible says Noah lived 930 years and his son Shem 600 years. However, Terah the father of Abraham, lived for only 205 years This may provide evidence that there was a water vapor canopy shielding man from harmful radiation. As the years passed, mankind began to live shorter life-spans.

Though this is possible, there is no clear biblical evidence that such a canopy existed.

6.Diet

There are those who argue that diet had a large part to do with the longevity of the people. This view assumes people were vegetarians before the Flood. Genesis 9:3 says that Noah and his descendants would be allowed to eat the flesh of animals. However there was a qualification-the blood was not be left in it. The theory is that the shift from a vegetarian diet to one containing red meat helps explain the decreased longevity of the people after the Flood.

The problem with this view is that there is no clear-cut evidence that people were vegetarians before the Flood. We are never told that they were to only eat vegetables, only that they did eat vegetables. Unless God did some radical restructuring of the human anatomy after the Flood, it seems we were designed to be meat-eaters.

These are some of the possible reasons as to why the life spans were longer before the Flood than after the Flood.

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