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Book Review: The Hot Zone

Author: Richard Preston

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Hot-Zone-Terrifying-Story-Origins-ebook/dp/B007DCU4IQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498945702&sr=8-1&keywords=Hot+Zone%3A+The+Terrifying+True+Story+of+the+Origins+of+the+Ebola+Virus
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: If You Are Bored (Rating System)
Any Warnings: nasty descriptions of what viruses do to the body

Publisher Bio

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.

My Observation

This was actually really interesting book about how the Ebola Virus almost got loose in America and not far from Washington DC.

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Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

Author: Jay Asher
Link: https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Reasons-Why-Jay-Asher-ebook/dp/B0054R6BFM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498945687&sr=8-1&keywords=Thirteen+Reasons+Why
Genre: fiction
Rating: Don’t Waste Your Time(Rating System)
Any Warnings: Do not recommend for teenagers.

Publisher Bio

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.

My Observation

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.

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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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Book Review: The Story of Reality

Author:Gregory Koukl, Nancy Pearcey
Genre:  non-fiction
My rating: Must Read
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Story-Reality-Everything-Important-Happens/dp/0310525047/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492718092&sr=8-1&keywords=the+story+of+reality 

From the Publisher:

Biblical Christianity is more than just another private religious view. It’s more than just a personal relationship with God or a source of moral teaching.

Christianity is a picture of reality.

It explains why the world is the way it is. When the pieces of this puzzle are properly assembled, we see the big picture clearly. Christianity is a true story of how the world began, why the world is the way it is, what role humans play in the drama, and how all the plotlines of the story are resolved in the end.

In The Story of Reality, bestselling author and host of Stand to Reason, Gregory Koukl, explains the five words that form the narrative backbone of the Christian story. He identifies the most important things that happen in the story in the order they take place:

God
Man
Jesus
Cross
Resurrection
If you are already a Christian, do you know and understand the biblical story? And for those still seeking answers to the questions of life, this is an invitation to hear a story that explains the world in a way nothing else will. This story can change your life forever.

My Observation:

 Absolutely amazing. Immediately became a yearly read for me. This book does what college professors spend years trying to teach theology students how to do. It takes the highest thoughts on the biggest questions and places them on the bottom shelf so everyone can understand them. I would recommend this book for any Christian who wants a greater understanding of the big picture of God, life, evil, justice, mercy, and where we fit in all of those area.

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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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