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Top 10 Books I Read in 2016

January 4, 2017

Last night one of my sons asked me for book recommendations for the new year. That discussion inspired this blog.

I used to write a “Top 10 Books of the Year” blog at the end of each year. While I did not stop reading, for some reason, I stopped blogging that list. Here are some of my previous lists: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008. Books on my Top 10 lists are not necessarily the best books, the most popular books, or the most important books. They are simply the ten books that impacted me the most in the past twelve months.

Now (after no one noticing that my list disappeared), I am reviving it. Here’s the 2016 list, in random order.

Thomas Long1.  The Witness of Preaching by Thomas G. Long. If you are called to preach, do your congregation a favor and study this book. If you are a church member, buy a copy for your pastor. If you don’t want him to know it’s from you, just quietly slip it in his briefcase or office. I have read a lot of preaching books in my lifetime, and this is one of the best.

 

Eugene Peterson2. Eat this Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading by Eugene Peterson. If you love reading or studying the Bible, you will love this book. If you have a difficult time reading, studying, understanding, or interpreting the Bible, this book might just change your life. Eugene Peterson is the best in the business at making spiritual and scholarly concepts accessible to semi-spiritual, non-scholarly readers.

 

Gothic Enterprise3. The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral by Robert A. Scott. Last year, I preached a sermon and posted a blog inspired by this book. If you liked the sermon or blog, you might enjoy this book. Here’s the blog. While not a “Christian book,” it positively impacted my view of worship as much as any book I have ever read.

 

Lee Kuan Yew4. One Man’s View of the World by Lee Kuan Yew. While I do not always agree with his view of the world, I have always been inspired by Lee Kuan Yew’s vision, clarity, and commitment to excellence. This book presents Singapore’s long-time Prime Minister’s no-holds-barred opinions about America, Japan, China, Asia, Europe, and the Arab Spring. It not only addresses the past and present, but it also gives a glimpse into the possible future.

 

John Lennox5. Seven Days that Divide the World by John C. Lennox. Written by everyone’s favorite Northern Irish philosopher, apologist, and professor of mathematics, this book is a must-read for campus missionaries and university students. I appreciate it when really really really smart people write in a way that makes complicated ideas simple to grasp.

 

Henri Nouwen6. Spiritual Formation by Henri Nouwen. If you are not familiar with the concept of “Spiritual Formation,” or if you have never read a book by Henri Nouwen, this book is a great place to start. The Dutch priest, pastor, philosopher, psychologist, author, and professor (Yale, Harvard, Notre Dame) wrote over 40 books on Christian spirituality that have been published in over twenty-two languages.

 

Marshall Goldsmith7. Succession: Are You Ready by Marshall Goldsmith. I thought I was ready, or at least getting close to being ready. But after a couple chapters of this book, it became painfully obvious that I am not ready and the organizations I lead are not even almost ready. I have much work to do to prepare the next leaders to lead Every Nation and Victory and to prepare Every Nation and Victory for its next leaders. If you lead a church, ministry, or business, please read and reread this book. After you finish Succession, I suggest you also read, Next: Pastoral Succession that Works by Warren Bird.

 

Joe Onosai8. The Power Destiny by Joe Onosai. The much-anticipated autobiography by my friend, Pastor Joe Onosai is filled with brutally honest stories of sin, redemption, violence, love, pain, and healing. Most of all, it is a book about how God uses life-giving relationships to shape his leaders. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

 


Rice Broocks9. Man Myth Messiah: Answering History’s Greatest Question by Rice Broocks.
This follow-up to the book God’s Not Dead presents and examines the evidence for the historical Jesus with an emphasis on the historicity of the resurrection. An important and informative book in an age of ignorance and skepticism.

 

Roger Pearce10. Better Together by Roger Pearce. Powerful stories of grace, forgiveness, and racial reconciliation in the shadow of South Africa’s ugly history of ethnic division. This book offers hope and a way forward for campuses, cities, and nations anywhere in the world that are experiencing racial tension. I hope to see European, Middle Eastern, Asian, and North American versions of this book. Well done, Roger!

 

Honorable mention (aka snubs) that I’m glad I read, but did not quite make my Top 10: The Source of Life by Jurgen Moltmann, On Christian Doctrine by Saint Augustine, Overhearing the Gospel by Fred B. Craddock, Preaching the Story by Jeffrey Frymire, More Power in the Pulpit by Cleophus LaRue, Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean, and Marius’ Mules Book VII: The Great Revolt by S.J.A. Turney.

Blog / Miscellaneous

BACK TO SCHOOL

July 25, 2016

The Asbury 8 with Charles Wesley on the Asbury Seminary campus.

WILMORE, KENTUCKY. As I write, I am finishing up the first on-campus installment of a DMin (Doctor of Ministry) program at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.

I am part of a group of Every Nation pastors and campus missionaries from all over the world who over the next three years will be furthering their theological education with the goal of becoming better ministers and better leaders.

It’s been a long time since I was in school, and I am happy to be back in the classroom. I have learned a lot since the program started. Here are a few initial impressions from my time here.

The Value of Education

Returning to school after so many years has reminded me that learning is hard work. Plowing through long reading lists, engaging with new ideas, articulating my thoughts in formal academic writing—this is all hard work. But it is worthwhile work. Though I’ve always been a reader and have been blogging and writing for many years, this DMin program has challenged me to flex new intellectual muscles. How so? Because I am being forced to read books that I would have never chosen on my own. And I am reading these new books and engaging these new ideas with other Every Nation (and non-Every Nation) pastors from around the world. Self-guided learning is good, but learning in community is even better.

The Power of Preaching

One of the central focuses of our DMin program is preaching. This seems appropriate since Asbury Theological Seminary was named after the great Methodist preacher Francis Asbury (1745-1816). Responding to John Wesley’s call to the American mission field, English-born Asbury spent most of his adult life as an itinerant preacher in the American colonies and even in the “Western” frontiers of Tennessee and Kentucky. Riding from state to state and town to town on horseback, Asbury preached over 16,500 sermons in his forty-five-year career. (That’s an average of one sermon every single day for forty-five years!) During that time (1771-1816), the Methodist movement in America grew from 600 to 200,000. Preaching the gospel is powerful—both then and now.

The Role of Institutions

As movements grow, leaders will always be faced with the question of continuity. How can we sustain movements for future generations? There are many ways to answer this question, but one often underrated solution to the problem of continuity is investing in institutions that will carry on the mission and vision of the founders long after they are gone. Look at Asbury Theological Seminary. In 2016, it is still promoting the central vision of men like Wesley and Asbury who first came to America as missionaries over 200 years ago. Though the Methodist movement started with revival, it was sustained by institutions (churches and seminaries) that were able to train future leaders of the movement.

It is my prayer that in the coming years we will be able to grow and expand our own educational institutions (Every Nation Schools of Ministry), so that we can continue to train up next-generation leaders who will carry on the mission to reach every nation and every campus—long after the founders are gone.

Blog / Family / Miscellaneous

Dick Dastardly, Turkey, and the Remedy for Entitlement

November 23, 2015

NASHVILLE. Yesterday at church my good friend, Rice Broocks preached a powerful sermon that included brilliant exegesis, solid theology, practical application, and a reference to two of the greatest cartoon characters ever – Dick Dastardly and his canine sidekick Muttley. Only Rice would attempt to connect the dots from the Apostle Paul to Timothy to Dick Dastardly and Muttley. (“Rashin frashin Rick Rastardly!”)

In his sermon, “Gratefulness is Our Greatest Weapon,” Rice talked about how gratefulness protects our minds, our relationships, and our hearts. He said that unexpressed gratefulness is actually ungratefulness. This sermon was both inspiring and convicting. And it also took me back in time.

When our now adult sons were young, Deborah and I decided that we would not tolerate an entitlement attitude in our home. Our remedy? Teach our kids to be thankful. I am not sure how successful we were, but we sure tried to raise grateful sons.

Yesterday Rice reminded me of the main point that we tried to teach our kids, that entitlement cannot coexist with gratitude.

Entitlement says that parents, businesses, siblings, government, church, life, God, and Santa owe me something. And since I am owed, there is no reason to say thanks.

Thankfulness is like kryptonite to entitlement. Kills it on contact.

And that brings us to that American holiday, Thanksgiving Day. After a hundred years of American cities and communities declaring their own thanksgiving celebrations, in 1789 President George Washington proclaimed November 26 “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of ALMIGHTY GOD.

Notice that the original official Thanksgiving Day was not about being generally thankful, but about specifically thanking ALMIGHTY GOD.

Recently Americans have become obsessed with removing all God references from the conversation lest we offend Bill Maher. With Thanksgiving we have taken that obsession to an absurd level, not only removing God but also removing the idea of thanks from Thanksgiving Day.

Increasingly Americans are calling the 4th Thursday of November, “Turkey Day” rather than Thanksgiving Day. Are we afraid that if we call it Thanksgiving, someone might accidentally thank God?

So now, rather than thanking God once a year for His gracious provision, we eat turkey and watch football.

Blog / Family / Miscellaneous

The Most Fortunate Man in the World, R.I.P.

March 12, 2014

ATLANTA. I recently attended the memorial service of an old friend, Brady Clark. He was my age. And he was way too young to die.

Almost three decades ago, Brady preached at Victory-Manila. After all these years I still remember the gist of his sermon: “It doesn’t matter if you’re in the ministry, as long as the ministry is in you.”

During the memorial service Brady’s sister, Trudy, reminded us of Brady’s famous voice mail message. Imagine the most genteel southern gentleman accent possible, then slow it down and exaggerate it:

You’ve reached the most fortunate man in the world. I’ve got great kids. I love my job. I have the best friends a man could ask for. If there is anything I can do to help you, just leave a message and I’ll call you back as soon as I can.

Brady’s sermon from thirty years ago and his voice mail message from last month sum up a good man’s life and legacy: faith, family, friends, and helping people.

Rest in peace, Brady Clark. You will me missed by many.

Blog / Miscellaneous / Missions

How You Can Help Typhoon Victims in the Philippines

November 13, 2013

TOKYO AIRPORT. It has been five days since the strongest storm to hit land in recorded history wreaked havoc in the central Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, produced wind speeds up to 315 km (195 mph) and storm surges (tsunami-like waves) up to 17 feet high.

Damage estimates change by the hour, but the latest say over 11 million people were affected by the storm, and as many as 10,000 are dead. Around 500,000 are now homeless. Ninety-five percent of the homes and buildings in Tacloban were destroyed or damaged.

I am now sitting in the Tokyo airport on my way to Nashville, but my heart is still in the Philippines where our Every Nation and Victory staff and volunteers are working around the clock receiving, processing, and delivering relief goods. So far, we have received, packaged, and sent 10 tons of relief goods from Victory centers in Metro Manila.

THANK YOU to all who have given, volunteered, and prayed. Much more is needed. Many friends from all over the world have asked how they can help. Here’s some info:

Info about how to give, volunteer, or donate relief goods is available on the Victory Philippines website.

Financial contributions can also be given through Every Nation North America.

Trustworthy organizations we work with in the Philippines include: Operation Blessing Philippines, Samaritan’s Purse and Habitat for Humanity Philippines.

If you live in the Philippines and want to help, we are still receiving and processing relief goods at Victory centers nationwide. Click here to find the Victory center nearest you. If you live anywhere else in the world, the best way you can help is to pray and give money. One hundred per cent of the money will be used in our relief and rebuilding operations.

I heard yesterday that over sixty Victory church members in our Roxas City church have lost everything – homes, clothes, vehicles, computers,…  I am certain many of our Victory members in Tacloban also lost everything, but I have not seen the list of names yet. Anything you send would be a huge help for these families.

Gotta board my plane now. Please continue to pray, volunteer, and give. Thanks.

Blog / Miscellaneous / Missions

CNN: “Worse than Hell in Philippines”

November 11, 2013

MANILA, PHILIPPINES.  I’m sitting in my Manila office, teary-eyed, heavyhearted, and feeling powerless. Downstairs Pastor Paolo, and our Every Nation Philippines staff are collecting and sorting relief goods to be delivered to victims. We are doing all we can, but it is not nearly enough. And it is a frustratingly slow process.

Most of the world is now aware that the Philippines was once again pounded by a super-typhoon. The CNN headline this morning read:  “Worse than Hell in Philippines.” Some news sources have reported that this one was the strongest storm to hit ground in recorded history. It was 3.5 times stronger than Katrina. The storm pummeled 36 Philippine provinces, left 340,000 homeless, and affected more than 4.3million Filipinos.

No one really knows the death toll at this time. The International Red Cross is estimating that as many as 10,000 people may have died during the storm. My friend, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez was quoted in the CNN article: “I have not spoken to anyone who has not lost someone, a relative close to them. We are looking for as many as we can.”

Here are some of the descriptions of the devastation from various CNN articles:

– The stories coming out of the Philippines are unimaginable. Rushing water and wind tearing children away from their parents’ arms. Tacloban, a city of 200,000 in which no buildings appear to have survived intact.

– Super Typhoon Haiyan roared into the central islands of the Philippines last week, wiping out entire neighborhoods, ripping children off their parents’ arms and leaving a trail of devastation.

– An estimated 1,000 bodies were seen floating in Tacloban as reported by Red Cross teams.

– Entire houses leveled. Bodies scattered on streets. In the aftermath of Haiyan, Filipinos are grappling with unimaginable devastation.

The Victory  and Every Nation Churches websites have info for those who want to help.

Blog / Miscellaneous

Remembering the “Day of Valor”

April 8, 2013

BONIFACIO GLOBAL CITY, PHILIPPINES. Today is Araw ng Kagitingan, aka “Day of Valor” aka Bataan Day. Some of you have never heard of Bataan Day, others have heard of it only in the context of the 160 Bataan Death March Ultramarathon because you follow my friend, The Running Pastor on twitter.

I’ll never forget taking my young sons on a tour of Corregidor Island. We toured the caves and the Malinta Tunnel that served as General MacArthur’s headquarters. We climbed on the massive cannons, Battery Way, Battery Hearn, and Battery Geary. After that trip, we watched some classic WWII movies.

To understand why today is a non-working holiday in the Philippines we have to go back to Corregidor Island on April 9, 1942. Not many people ignored direct orders from General Douglas MacArthur, but that’s exactly what Major General Edward King did when he surrendered more than 76,000 Filipino, Chinese, and American soldiers to the Japanese.

That surrender was followed by the infamous 140 kilometer (90 mile) Bataan Death March to Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. For days the road was littered with the bodies of the dead, as thousands of starving, dehydrated, wounded, disease-racked soldiers could not keep the pace and were left to die. Thousands more were brutally and randomly executed along the way.

Only 54,000 of the 76,000 who surrendered actually made it to Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac where conditions were deplorable. Some escaped along the way, but about 10,000 died on the Death March.

This, like many events in world history, confirms the doctrine of “total depravity” and makes one wonder what atrocities we would commit every day if not for the restraining power of “common grace.”

So, what will you do on Araw ng Kagitingan? If nothing else, why not thank a veteran for their sacrificial service?

If you are interested in a good MacArthur movie, check out Tommy Lee Jones as General Mac in Emperor.

 

 

Blog / Miscellaneous

7 Reasons To Like The Bible Series on History Channel

March 25, 2013

I have heard pastors and church people criticize The Bible Series on History channel. Not me.

Sure, there have been a few inaccuracies. In the Bible Series a lamb shows up on Mt Moriah, but in the Bible it was a ram. In the Bible Series King Cyrus fed Daniel to the lions, but in the Bible it was King Darius. And, of course, the Jesus in the real Bible probably looked more like an olive skinned Middle Eastern laborer than a white Midwestern alternative rocker.

So what?

I’m sure it was far less dangerous to work with a lamb than with a ram, and there probably was not enough time to introduce two kings during Daniel’s life so they merged events from the reigns of Cyrus and Darius. I have no idea why the Jesus actor is European. But, the point of God providing for Abraham and God protecting Daniel was loud and clear. And, so far, the New Testament scenes have clearly communicated the message of Jesus without compromise.

So, I’m not complaining or criticizing. Here are six reasons I’m glad The Bible Series is being shown, even though it (the TV series) is neither infallible nor inerrant.

1. People who don’t read the Bible are watching The Bible Series.

2. People who watch The Bible Series are starting to read the Bible.

3. Producers and entertainment power brokers who see the success of The Bible Series will be open to producing more of the same in the future.

4. People are talking about, tweeting about, and blogging about The Bible Series and Bible stories more than ever.

5. Families are watching The Bible Series together, and are discussing Bible stories.

6. It’s sure better than watching Swamp People, Celebrity Wife Swap, or 60 Minutes.

7. Because Samson and John the Baptizer have awesome dreads. (Number 7 is from my friend Neli Atiga in Singapore.)

Thank you Mark Burnett and Roma Downey for taking a risk and giving us The Bible Series.

Blog / Leadership / Miscellaneous

When the Dream Feels Like a Nightmare

January 11, 2013

Note: This is an important blog for all who do ministry, whether you are lifers or volunteers.

But, first a familiar story. Young Joseph had a couple of dreams. The dreams were from God. Like many dreamers, in his youthful enthusiasm, Joseph offended friends and family as he arrogantly promoted his dream.

Because of the dream, Joseph’s brothers hated him. They threatened to kill him. But, in an act of brotherly compassion, they decided to spare his life and sell him into slavery instead. His Egyptian slave-master unjustly threw him in prison.

Joseph’s dream had officially become a nightmare.

What do you do when The Dream feels like a nightmare? Here’s what Joseph did: he helped others live their dreams, while he waited on his.

The story continues. While in prison, Joseph’s cellmates had dreams. He interpreted their dreams, with one request: “when all goes well with you, REMEMBER ME and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.” (Gen 40:14) Sounds like a reasonable request to me.

The last verse in Genesis 40 is all too familiar for those of us in ministry. “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” (Gen 40:23) Have you ever been forgotten by those you serve? If you have been in ministry more than two weeks, you have.

Two years later, Pharaoh has a couple of dreams (the third set of double dreams that mark Joseph’s life). Pharaoh is distraught and seeks an interpretation. Chief Cupbearer suddenly remembers his former cellmate who helped his dream become reality. Chief finally puts in a good word for Joseph. Pharaoh summons Joseph and the rest is history. But Joseph had to endure two extra years of prison because he was forgotten by the man he had helped.

What should we do when we help people in their time of need, and they forget us in our time of need? GET OVER IT, GET YOUR EYES ON JESUS, AND KEEP MINISTERING!

Blog / Miscellaneous

My 2012 Top 10 Christmas Movies

December 7, 2012

Since Christmas movies have been playing all week, I thought it was time to update and post my annual Top 10 Must-See Christmas Movie List. Here’s my 2012 list…

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