Starbucks Amos and Amos 8:11

1093659-largeI am at my local Starbucks just about every day. I know, I know: I have a problem (the first step is admitting right?). But in my defense, two of my four kids have worked at our neighborhood Starbucks and, well, I’m a good family man. Also, I believe approximately ten or so baristas attend our church, which makes it one of those “return of the tithe” kinda things!

So I think I’m justified. Stop judging me. 🙂

Sure I’m a espresso addict, but more than anything I’m here for the people. I love to see folks…you know, the coffee shop regulars. One such regular is Amos.

Amos is 92 years old. He’s a kind elderly gentlemen that exudes warmth. He is usually in his seat right when the doors open. Then, after chit-chatting with the other patrons, finishing his tall Pikes Place, and perusing the newspaper, he will make the long, slow shuffle to the door. I always give Amos a glance and a friendly “good morning sir” but we’ve never had a long conversation.

Until today. 

He told me about how his morning was shaping up. Tidbits from the newspaper. His next stop was to go to Snap Fitness to exercise a little bit (remember he’s 92!). Then we talked about his knees and hips and how he was able to avoid surgery by simply moving and being active rather than sitting in his chair for too long.

Then before he walked out the door, he stopped, came back to me and asked: “Are you the pastor at the church up the hill?” I acknowledged that I was.

He said: “Young man, heaven and earth will pass away, but word of God endures forever. Every day before I do anything I read the Word. Then at night before I go to bed, I read the Word. It is my life.”

I leaned forward because he had my full attention.

Then he looked me in the eye and said: “May the Lord richly bless you today and may God speak to you in a fresh way.” I nodded in agreement and whispered an “Amen.” He then smiled and shuffled his way out the door to this truck.

Amos of Starbucks.

The Old Testament prophet named Amos captured this in Amos 8:11…“The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land, not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”

I can’t think of a worse kind of famine. Let’s pray that we don’t experience a famine such as this again in our land or hearts.

How?

Well, let’s be like Amos of Starbucks who hungers and thirsts daily for the word of the Lord.

I Love Books

c6c20c6a0a3398b203a24f2200f3f796I love to read, no surprise there. I read a lot. A LOT. But, this summer, during an extended pastoral sabbatical, I read significantly more. I counted 30 books completely read, but here’s a list of 25 of them that I remember. At the end of this blog post I’ll mention a few books that I’m currently tackling.

Happy Reading!

 

 

Simply Ramen: A complete course in preparing ramen at home by Amy Kimoto-Kahn

The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future by Steve Case

The Angels Game (a novel) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Destiny of the Republic: a tale of madness, medicine and the murder of a president by Candice Millard

Girl on the Train (a novel) by Paula Hawkins

The 10-second Rule: following Jesus made simple by Clare De Graff

Rolling Nowhere: riding the rails with America’s hoboes by Ted Conover

How to be a Man: (and other illusions) by Duff McKagan

Before the Fall (a novel) by Noah Hawley

Prep-Ahead Meals from Scratch by Alea Milham

Koreatown: A Cookbook by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodnard

Disappearing Church: from cultural relevance to gospel resilience by Mark Sayers

Design Your Day: be more productive, set better goals and live life on purpose by Claire Diaz-Ortiz

Sea and Smoke: flavors from the untamed Pacific Northwest by Blaine Wetzel

Visual Theology: Seeing and understanding the truth about God by Tim Challies

Andy Warhol was a Hoarder: inside the minds of history’s great personalities by Claudia Kalb

Good Faith: being a Christian when society thinks you’re irrelevant and extreme by Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman

Mind Hacking: how to change your mind for good in 21 days by Sir John Hargrave

Mexican Hat (a novel) by Michael McGarrity

Eat Street: the ManBQue guide to making street food at home by John Carruthers

How to Pray by R.A. Torrey

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

The Amish: a consist introduction by Steven Nolt

Prisoner of Heaven (a novel) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

 

Here’s what I’m currently reading:

Facing Leviathan by Mark Sayer

Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger

Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church by Kara Powell

The Seven Levels of Intimacy by Matthew Kelly

• People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue

 

Summer of Sabbatical

I have been given the gift of a pastoral sabbatical this summer. For this I am extremely grateful. My sabbatical will last a little over nine weeks and begin on July 1.

What is a sabbatical? It’s a good question, not least because ‘sabbath’ is a lost practice in our day. We all get vacations and “time off,” but a sabbath is something altogether different. Sabbath is a time to stop, to rest, to delight, to play, and to be renewed by the Creator and Sustainer of all things.

A sabbatical is meant to be an extended sabbath. Some may wonder if there is any sin, frustration with the church, or desire to move on to another ministry assignment. The answer is no. Some have asked if I am taking this time to focus on my doctoral work, or to write a book. The answer is no. I had considered starting my doctorate soon, but opted to wait until another season, and I have had a couple of book ideas on my mind, but don’t feel like the time is right to develop those yet. Although I will be reading and journaling…a lot. The point is to have an extended sabbath—a holy space to rest and be renewed.

For pastors, the practice of a sabbatical becomes particularly important because of the role we carry in the church. The weight of spiritual leadership is hard to explain or quantify, and yet it can take a very tangible toll on a leader’s soul. Many leaders don’t stop because they don’t feel that they can for fear that the church may fall apart without them. But I believe that Jesus is the Head of the Church! I think you agree.

Jesus withdrew in silence and solitude, even when the crowds were pressing in. Therefore, it’s important that pastors do that too. A sabbatical obviously is no substitute for regular rhythms of rest and renewal. And yet, our church council was so gracious to give me something extra, something longer, something special as a gift. This gift is really the gift of time. Thank you.

So, what will Denise and I do on my sabbatical?
We have intentionally crafted the weeks to make space for rest, recreation and renewal. There will be times for just Denise and I to be together, as well as fun memory-making adventures with the kids, cherished moments with family and friends, as well as some solitary blocks of time with just me and Jesus.

During this summer, we will be commemorating a number of milestones:
• My 45th birthday
• My 25th year as a licensed Foursquare pastor
• My 7th year as the lead pastor of West Salem Foursquare Church
and finally (and most amazingly)…
• Our 25th year of marriage (the result of the grace of God and a good lady)!

So, we’re gonna do some wonderful things, but there are also things we will NOT do. For my sabbatical, the things I will deliberately cease from are:

• Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (checking and posting)
• Email (all my addresses are being forwarded to my assistant)
• My phone (I’m shutting it off often, using it sparingly and not for business)
• Content-creation (no sermon writing, blogging, planning, etc)
• Speaking at any churches, camps or conferences

The things I will intentionally delight in are: family (including our sweet grandbaby), friends, reading (lots of fiction, mostly soul care books and a few theological ones), walking, working out, riding bike (I just bought a bike and am excited to start riding it…gotta get ready for the new bridge to Minto Brown park!), and watching The Olympics (The Fehlens really love watching the Olympics together!).

What about West Salem Foursquare Church?
Well, as you know we have an amazing team of staff, elders and servant-leaders! Our Navigational Team will continue to oversee our staff and day-to-day operations. Each Sunday service will have great communicators sharing the Word of God. Along with our staff, we have a number of incredible friends and partners in ministry that will be joining us throughout the summer.

Sunday, June 26th, will be my last Sunday before the sabbatical. I will be back in the pulpit on September 11th.

Pray for us. Pray that the Lord would surprise us with joy in beautiful ways, and that our hearts would be drawn closer to Him and to one another as family during this time.

The Best is Yet to Come,

John

The Top Seven Things I Do Before 7 AM

20120112-083359.jpg1. Lay out the next day’s clothes the night before
This is helpful because I often dress in the dark. It keeps me from leaving the house with un-matching socks, or some other wardrobe malfunction

2. Hit brew on the Kurig machine and drink that 1st cup of love.
I later get an iced grande triple espresso, but often can’t wait that long for a blast of caffeine.

3. Knell down at the living room couch and pray to God
This sets my day, and often can chart a new direction depending upon the leading of the Lord.

4. Read from my PAUSE Daily Bible Reading Plan and journal my thoughts
Find out more at http://wsfc.org/resources/bible-reading/

5. Review daily calendar, reprioritize, add and subtract. Set my goals for the day
I personally use Wunderlist for tasks and Evernote to capture everything in my life.

6. Download and quickly look at email. Swipe through social media.
Just a quick look to see if anything urgent requires my immediate attention. And then a fast flip through Instagram to get my “social shot” for the morning. This particular habit is one that I’m trying to break through extended fasts. But at least it isn’t the FIRST thing I do when waking up!

7. Shower. Then off and running by 7 AM.
Get my son to school. Hit Starbucks or another local coffee shop with wifi. Then: Work. Work. Work.

Bring It and Tend It

Today I was reading a Leviticus 24. I know, I know…Leviticus, am I right?!? But, you know what? I love the Book of Leviticus. Seriously. I really enjoy it. The key for me is to have a really strong grasp on the JESUS of the New Testament, so that I can have a greater appreciation for the Bible that HE would have read and known (the Old Testament).

As I was reading Leviticus 24 I came across these verses:

The Lord said to Moses, “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning continually. Outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, Aaron is to tend the lamps before the Lord from evening till morning, continually. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. The lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the Lord must be tended continually (vs. 1-4).

I was quickly reminded of something very similar in the Book of Exodus that I had read AND blogged on previously. I dug through my blog (which has been poorly cared for as of late), and found what I had written SIX years ago. I’m re-posting it. I think it’s good and still important.

Enjoy.

 

In the Book of Exodus we discover such great detail regarding the construction, decor and maintenance of the temple of the Lord. If you’ve ever read through Exodus then you too have discovered the incredible minutia. Everything detail has of corresponding detail. Everything has a purpose and a place. The lampstand must be made of certain materials. The frame of the tabernacle has specific dimensions. Even the curtains must be made of a particular fabric and have just the right amount of embroidery  and yarn. Lots and lots of detail. Almost mind-numbing. Just when my eyes were beginning to gloss over I was captured by these verses:

“And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually. In the tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil which is before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening until morning before the LORD. It shall be a statute forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel.”  Exodus 27:20-21

Here we discover God’s command to the priests that there should always be a light left on in the temple. The inner court must alway have illumination. The lamps were to be filled with pure beaten olive oil.  The process by which olive oil is harvested and refined is amazing. There are various grades of oil (ie: extra virgin) and the command was such that only the purest form be brought to the inner court to keep the light burning day and night.

Throughout Biblical history, we discover that oil is often used as a typology of the Holy Spirit and His anointing presence. From this passage, one can surmise that the Lord God desired that there be a visual reminder of His Presence always burning brightly within the temple and before the people.  God’s desire for His manifold Presence to be expressed, enjoyed and exalted remains today. He wants His Presence to be evident in our modern churches.

How often have we been a part of or at least aware of congregations in which God’s Presence has not dwelt for some time?  These are empty shells, white-washed tombs, and shadows of their former selves.

The lights are barely on, and God is certainly not at home.

How can we, in our postmodern culture, insure that the Presence of the Holy Spirit still burns brightly within our midst?  I believe there are two components that are found in the Exodus 27 passage.

1.  The People Bring It

The people of Israel were commanded to bring the pure oil to the temple for the lamp to remain lit. There is a responsibility on their part that is often overlooked today.  Our contemporary churches have largely become spectator based in which folks rate the service like that of an episode of American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance? In large part the leaders of the local church have a heavy expectation to “bring it,” and if there seems to be a lack of God’s Presence then the service is rated accordingly. In this passage we discover the opposite expectation.  The people were to “bring it.”

Imagine, Spirit-filled believers coming together and collectively bringing the indwelling Presence of God with them. Our church gatherings would be lit up! That’s where the pastors role begins.

2.  The Pastor Tends It

Aaron and his sons were the priests of the temple. They were commanded to tend to the lamp from evening to morning. What is notably absent from this passage?  Bringing oil was not their responsibility. Their role involved tending. Today in our churches, we have pastors that are given the same role: to keep the lamp burning with the oil that the people bring.

I have known good and Godly leaders that are struggling in their place of service. There are a number of reasons why this could be the case. But it occurs to me that perhaps they are trying to keep a lamp burning without oil. Another image would be: making bricks without straw.  These well-meaning pastors have too great an expectation upon them to be both bringer and tender. That is an undue expectation.

Welcome to the Kingdom of God partnership:  people and pastor. Together we can keep the light on for God.

What’s the Purpose of the Church?

Screen Shot 2011-09-01 at 4.59.45 AMA number of years ago, in my first pastorate, I remember the ongoing sense of confusion and frustration I felt regarding the purpose of The Church. I would often get asked “What are we doing?” and I knew the question was more comprehensive and challenging then our next event, bible study or teaching series. The question had to do with the greater purpose and overall mission of the “exclesia” – the Body of Christ.

I was stumped. Oh sure, I could muster some semblance of a response such as “We’re just gonna love God and love people.” That, by the way, isn’t a bad answer. I, however, was regurgitating something I had heard from yet another leader at yet another pastors breakfast. In no time I would respond to the “what are we doing?” question with a wide-eyed “Um, we’re reaching the world for Jesus” or “We’re making it hard for people to go to hell in our city.” Were we to reach the lost or feed the found? Ahhh…the pressure!

My understanding of the church’s purpose would flip-flop after every compelling book, conference or sudden epiphany.

Until I was about 30 years old and I spent a week with Pastor Jack Hayford.

When he spoke to me, and about 45 other Christian leaders, the lights began to come on, the fog started clearing, and I began to understand, deep in my heart, the fundamental framework for the local church.

And I haven’t looked back since. Like a gymnast, I finally stuck the landing.

By the way, it should be mentioned, that this wasn’t rocket science, a newly fashioned and fanciful theological construct, nor a secret-now-revealed to the best and brightest. It was simple, and it was explicit in the Bible. But, it finally made sense.

So Christ himself gave [the church] the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

 

The Church exists to equip people towards maturity in Christ Jesus.

Deep breath. I remember a wave of revelation coming over me like it was yesterday.

The church, and all it’s wonderful gifts, are to be aimed, like a strategic missile, at the mission of equipping (which in Greek is the word “katartizo” meaning “to mend”) the saints for the work of ministry. That’s discipleship. Like we say at West Salem Foursquare Church: we exist to Make More and Maturing Disciples.

That, my friends, can be done in amazingly creative and diverse ways. For example, at our church, we’ve determined that we’re gonna hit our goal by investing in The Big Three: scripture, small groups and serving. Other congregations may achieve the goal differently. More power to ya. Like it’s been said, “There’s more than one way to skin that cat.”

But, let’s at least aim for the goal: equipping people towards maturity (which in Greek is the word “teleios” meaning “brought to it’s finished end”) in Christ Jesus.

Based upon my observations, you may have push-back, or at least curiosity, regarding the value of evangelism. Shouldn’t the mission of the church be reaching and/or returning people to Jesus? Doesn’t the church exist for those yet to be found (ie: lost)? This is precisely what you’ll have to wrestle with, as I did. Here’s a piece of understanding from Pastor Jack Hayford, that helped me immensely: evangelism is the natural overflow of an equipped (mended and maturing) follower of Jesus.  

Equipping is the bullseye. Evangelism is the byproduct.

Leading Through Tough Stuff

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Last week, myself, along with my friend Randy Remington and facilitated and lectured at one of my annual Leadership Symposiums on the the topic of “Leading Through Criticism, Conflict and Change.” 

As a resource, I gave out the following blog post that I wrote back in 2010. I wanted to REPOST it because I think it’s helpful for leaders of all kinds to know how to navigate tough situations like the one Solomon famously faced. 

Enjoy. 

 

In 1 Kings 3 Solomon, in a dream, asks the Lord for wisdom. His prayer is one that I have asked on a number of occasions and in various ways:

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? 1 Kings 3:9

Although a dream, this nighttime prayer became a reality. Solomon was indeed graced with immense wisdom. We discover its practical implications through an interesting encounter with two mothers (albeit prostitutes) that came to Solomon to have a disagreement settled.

One of the mothers had rolled over onto her baby in the middle of the night, smothering the little one. She then switched the dead baby for the living one. This was a classic “While You Were Sleeping” moment. However, like any mother worth her salt, the woman knew that the dead baby simply was not hers.

The battle of words begins: Yours. Mine. Not Yours. Alive. Mine. Dead. Yours. Mine.

Enter Solomon.

After listening to the arguments, in a bold move, Solomon presented a solution. His remedy has become a prototype for conflict resolution. Throughout the centuries, leaders have leaned upon Solomon’s sagely advice:

Bring me the baby. Oh yah, and a sword too. Gasp. I’m gonna split this cute little thing into two evenly divided pieces. Bigger Gasp. Each of you will get a piece. That should settle this. Another huge Gasp. 

In church life, Lead Pastors have to “split the baby” all the time. Not literally, of course. The baby is representative of ministry focus, good ideas, financial resources, etc. etc. All ministry leaders have their “babies” – the ministries they oversee, the specific ideas and concepts they generate, and the passions that are burning brightly within their hearts. These all must be cared for and nurtured and yet, sometimes, the baby must be split. Not every good idea can be integrated. Rarely are there enough resources available for everyone’s passion to be released at the larger, congregational level.

So how does a leader “split the baby” effectively? Here are few thoughts:

1. Pray for wisdom
Before issuing a decree, talk to the Lord. This can happen on the fly or over time. Sometimes decisions must be made quickly and the leader must seek the Lord in “real time.” In other situations, wisdom would demand a reprieve in order to pray. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I will need to get back to you. I need to take some time to pray about this. Will you join me in praying this through?” Scripture tells us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

2. Listen closely
Leaders often have very refined views and directions that have been shaped over time, and therefore can be predisposed to poor listening skills. Ok, maybe that’s just me. In other words, we have been around the leadership block and we have heard many things, often with similar, predictable patterns (ie: been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!). Because of this, it’s so important to fight the urge to tune out, but rather listen…closely. The next best idea may be in the your next conversation. The Holy Spirit will often steer our hearts as we listen to his voice and to his people.

3. Value subtleties 
When leaders are called upon to make decisions regarding great ideas with limited resources, one must depend upon subtleties. In Solomon’s case the subtlety was how the real mother refused to see the baby split (thus killed), but insisted that the fake mother receive him. This expressed true love, not selfishness. We need the wisdom of the Lord to pick up these kinds of subtleties when it comes to leadership decisions. Often when deciding between ideas we must actively listen for the little details that separates good from great. These subtleties will serve us in our decision making process. And we MUST make decisions…

4. Make clear decisions
At some point, after seeking the wisdom of the Lord, listening attentively, and weighing out the subtleties, a leader must make the call. That is what separates leaders from..well…followers. When you feel as if you’ve gotten the best information possible and have prayerfully been submitted to the wisdom of the Lord, then one must make a decision. If it is to “split the baby” then do it. If there are other options, then choose one. This is the tough stuff of leadership, and we wish we could “defer” it all the time. That would mean, however, that we aren’t the leader we think we are. Leaders make clear decisions.

5. Move on
This may sound cold and heartless, but, leaders have to “move on.” There will always be another decision to make. Even if you feel that you “really messed up” the last one: move on. You will live to fight another day. There will always be another “baby to split.”

Leaders: seek the wisdom of the Lord, listen to your people, value the subtleties that surface, make the hard calls, then move onto the next challenge. This is leadership. It’s not always easy. But, man, it is vital.

Take the Plunge!

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The following blog post is about WATER BAPTISM. If you are interested in baptized at West Salem Foursquare Church please check out this link: WSFC WATER BAPTISM.

 

We are offering baptism at EVERY service during the ENTIRE month of SEPTEMBER!

We encourage you to TAKE THE PLUNGE!

 

In Acts 8 we read about Philip’s encounter with a man from Ethiopia. Philip took the opportunity to expound upon the scriptures and introduce the Ethiopian to the saving knowledge of Jesus. While talking they came upon a body of water, and the man asked if he could be baptized. The New King James version of the Bible says that Philip responded with this prerequisite:  “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

Before being baptized in water one must come to a place of surrender to Jesus by making Him the Lord and Savior. Our resolve must be similar to the Ethiopian man, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”   Salvation is necessary before taking the next step of Water Baptism. If we have made Jesus the Lord of our life then Water Baptism is an appropriate next step!

Obedience

Jesus left His people with two specific commands that are vital to our growth as Christians. The first is communion (the Lord’s Supper) and the second is Water Baptism. He gave the church these sacraments as a reminder of his death and resurrection. Water baptism is not  our salvation, it is only another step of obedience in the plan of God. It symbolizes “death to self” and “new life” in the power and purposes of Christ. In a very real sense we are saying “Not my will, but yours.”

Identification

In Water Baptism we are identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Romans 6:3,4 attests to this when it says,  “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. We were buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

When we are submersed into the waters of baptism, we are symbolically, yet very intentionally, dead to our old ways of living. Simply put: it is buried! As we come up from the water we are made alive to the new life found in Christ. Now that our old life is “dead unto Christ” you want to be sure not to go digging it back up!

Confession

Water Baptism is a public act that renounces sin from our past and professes faith in Christ.  It’s a public expression that Jesus is Lord and that we are now a part of the family of God. Many have referred to baptism as a “outward sign of an inward work.”  It’s a visible and audible confession to our friends, family, and church of the deep work Christ has done in our life. The Book of Acts chapter 10 refers to many individuals that responded to the message of Jesus. During this time the Apostle Peter asked if “anyone could keep these people from being baptized with water.”  The answer was obviously “no” and therefore they were publicly baptized as an open acknowledgement of Christ as Lord.

Release

Nothing could be greater than a life that is fully ALIVE through Jesus Christ! That happens when we are not trapped in bondage to our sin and guilt. In baptism we are crucifying the sin of our life and coming alive to Christ. There is great joy when we are alive to Christ and dead to sin. Water baptism is a symbolic statement of this new life and marks a point of release into further growth and ministry for us as believers.

Not only is Water Baptism a Biblical command, but it is also modeled to us by Jesus who himself was baptized as described in the Gospels. He knew the importance of this sacred moment and calls us to the same obedience, knowing that it will mark a significant point of blessing for our lives!

Say It With Me: Change is Good

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Over the last few months I’ve been able to watch a transformation happen on the corner of Wallace Drive and Glen Greek in beautiful West Salem. I drive around that area quite often on any given day, whether I’m heading home, going to the church, hauling our kids to events, or getting groceries at Roth’s Market.

OK…I also fuel up at Starbucks pretty close to there (I’m actually writing this blog post from that hallowed spot).

The transformation in progress involves the ripping down of some old buildings, and tearing out sidewalks, in order to make way for something NEW. We are getting a re-routed intersection for better traffic flow. I personally was wanting a new strip mall, or if I’m lucky, a Vespa dealership, Trader Joes, or H&M (here’s to dreaming).

Regardless, sometimes things have to be torn down and replaced when they no longer serve the purposes for which they were intended. That’s not always a bad thing. Change is good.

Say it with me:  Change. Is. Good.

That wasn’t so hard, right?

God is into change too. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

The old becomes new in Christ. That can be a long, painful process for us, but the end-result is oh-so worth it.

Even when it comes to our methods, programs, styles, and preferences we have to consider that God is into change. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 9:16-17 “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wine skins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wine skins, and both are preserved.”

The work that the Lord wants to do in us in these days, I believe, is a NEW work. He desires to change us; making us more like himself.

Are you open to this?  Thankfully, we have a great promise in the Word of God that “His Mercy is New Every Morning.”

Let’s lean into his NEW mercy together!

5 Kinds of Books I Focus On

bokeh-stack-of-books

Ask around and the people closest to me will heartedly confirm that I read a lot of books.

A LOT.

I have a book going ALL the time. Actually, I have a bunch of books going all at the SAME time. I realized recently that I’m a “binge reader.” I tend to get a handful of books from the library or Amazon and then I dive into them all and see which ones “catch on.” Some of them don’t really grab me so I simply set them aside. No worries. Perhaps I will engage them at a later time. Perhaps not.

Other books (plural) gain traction, and I love it when that happens. I’ll keep one in my backpack. Another 4-5 are bedside. Still others are available in my “currently reading” piles at my office and home study. I even keep books in my car (currently there’s about 15 in the backseat), on my iPad for when I fly, and, yes, by the commode (don’t judge).

Solomon, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, had it right: “There is no end to the writing of many books and reading many of them makes the body tired” (Ecc. 12:12).  With all these books at our disposal, one may wonder how I choose WHAT to read.  Glad you asked…

Here are Five Kinds of Books I Focus On…

1. Resource Books.

These kinds of books are those that are currently popular or people ask me about. As a pastoral leader, I get asked often about certain books. Folks wonder what I think about it or if it’s the kind of book they should read themselves. Obviously, I can’t read every such book, but I think it’s important for me to be somewhat conversant.

ExamplesLove Wins by Rob Bell, Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson

2.  Research Books.

Many of the books I read serve as background for a particular preaching or teaching series. These may be commentaries, topical studies, or textual/expository (verse by verse) materials. These can often be dry, so I read research-like books sparingly.

Examples:  Ben Witherington III Socio-rhetorical Commentaries, Jon Courson Bible Commentaries or The Reason for God by Timothy Keller.

3.  Recreational Books.

Occasionally, I want to immerse myself in a good novel. Give me a well-written “political, who-done-it, edge of my seat, thrill-ride” of a book and I’m in my happy place. Toss in a Iced Triple Espresso and I’ve transported into the “third heaven.”

Examples:  Anything by writers like John Grisham, Brad Thor, or Vince Flynn. Pretty much if it’s under $10, fits in my backpack, and I can get ‘lost’ in the action, I’ll read it.

4. Renewal Books.

This is a pretty broad category for books that benefit my personal growth, leadership development, and character development. These may be new releases from Christian authors, but I try to limit those because so much of what is being currently written is nothing new or revolutionary. Therefore, I lean mostly towards biographies. Biographies let me do the work of gleaning the lessons, growth points, and leadership concepts rather than having them spoon-fed to me.

Examples:  Biographies by David McCullough (John Adams is my favorite), Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson, and Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull.

5. Retreat Books

Throughout the year I have scheduled retreats for prayer and solitude. During these times I bring with me contemplative works – often old and classic. These are far from “pop fare,” but rather, deep wells of wisdom from seasoned sojourners.

Examples:  The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence or anything by Eugene Peterson.

Ah, books. I love them.

By the way, if you’re ever asked what book you’d choose if you were to be marooned on a deserted island, you may be quick to say “The Bible.” I can’t argue with that choice too much because The Bible is without a doubt my favorite book in the world. But, I would tend to agree with G.K. Chesterton when he responded to that question with: Thomas’ Guide to Practical Ship-Building.

Think about it. 🙂