Archive for February, 2013

Book Review: Spiritual Leadership by Henry and Richard Blackaby

Posted: February 28, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Book reviews, Thoughts

Among the many voices talking about the topic of leadership, Henry and Richard Blackaby add their voice to the conversation and add their perspective on the challenge, role, vision and goals of the leader.  They provide a lot of helpful clarifications and insights from their time with leaders and CEO’s of companies.  Their experience, consultations, and nuggets of wisdom come through in their writing.

The overarching argument the authors are putting forth is that leaders are to move God’s people toward God’s agenda. I appreciate the emphasis on the development of people. Leadership is people work. As a leader, it is important to leverage your influence and passion for the benefit of others’ development. The biggest take away from this book is to think of leadership as a way of growing others into who God has created them to be and to place them where God needs them.

The second strength of this book is the chapter on the leader’s schedule. It is important that leaders guard their time for what is important. There is a difference between being busy and being productive. The juggling that occurs between relationships, rest, duties, and delight can easily be secured with careful planning. If a leader doesn’t keep to a disciplined schedule, they are unintentionally planning to overlook important tasks. By guarding their time, they are able to give themselves to intentional thinking, planning in order to carry out duties. The leader’s schedule can become the barometer of what they prioritize and what they don’t. It can diagnose if the leader overworks, underworks, or works unnecessarily. A calendar can balance all of the leader’s priorities while keeping a good mix of high purpose and high play.

After reading this book, I found two significant weaknesses that would keep me from recommending this book to others. One would be the dichotomization of leadership. I understand that there is a practical difference between how a Christian and non-Christian would lead an organization. However, the disagreement I have is in the secular/sacred split the author contrasts throughout the book. I believe that all humans are created to make and maintain cultures through work, structures, and technological advances. The manner by which culture and companies fulfill that may be different, but this is intrinsically woven into the fabric of who we are. The Christian leader is to work against the effects of the fall in ever sphere of life. From business meetings, staff meetings, to contracts, the Christian leader is to lead in a way that is honoring to God. To spiritualize leadership is to overlook the cultural mandate in Gen 2. Christians and non-Christians are to make, maintain, work, and keep culture through work- especially leaders.

Second, I think there is an overemphasis on the theocentric sovereignty of God that leaves out intuition, conviction, and action based on what is revealed in the Bible. Blackaby makes some categorical statements about vision, goal-oriented communication and mission statements as though they are mutually exclusive with God’s purposes. In my opinion, pithy statements that work as plumb lines can be a helpful way of getting God’s people onto God’s agenda.

On the one hand I agree with his premise that leaders ought to lead people to God’s purposes.  However, I disagree about how to get there.  The authors propose vision and mission statements as an either or. In reality, they are not to be pitted against each other and can work together. A wise leader will gain his vision, mission, and goals from God while clearly communicating through easily transferrable statements.

In conclusion, I am grateful for the encouragement to carefully plan out my time in a way that is congruent with my roles.  The more time that is carved out to think, plan, and strategize, the more I am able to move people in the direction that would be most fruitful. Although I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone, I think it is a needed word for many in the business world.

Lit! on sale for $0.99 for Kindle users

Posted: February 26, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Book Recommendation, Reading

“I love to read.

I hate to read.

I don’t have time to read.

I only read Christian books

I’m not good at reading.

There’s too much to read.

Chances are, you’ve thought or said one of these exact phrases before because reading is important and in many ways unavoidable. Learn how to better read, what to read, when to read, and why you should read with this helpful guide from accomplished reader Tony Reinke. Offered here is a theology for reading and practical suggestions for reading widely, reading well, and for making it all worthwhile.” (Book Description)

If I could endorse and encourage everyone to buy Lit! I would. Tony Reinke writes about reading in a way that is inviting, encouraging, and envisioning. You won’t want to put this book down, or any other book for that matter. If you don’t like reading, or read a ton, this book will fuel a passion for literature. It can be yours for less than you pay for a fries, or a Mcdouble. This is a steal in my opinion.

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Here are some endorsements:

“There is so much to commend about this book that it is hard to know where to start. The most obvious virtue of the book is its scope. On the subject of reading, Reinke covers every possible topic. Each topic, in turn, is broken into all of its important subpoints. With a lesser writer, this could produce a tedious book, but the opposite is true of this book. Reinke says just enough, but not too much. The effect is like seeing a prism turned in the light. There is never a dull moment in this book. Once I sensed that Reinke was going to cover all the important topics, and with unfailing good sense and Christian insight, I could hardly put the book down. What will Reinke say about THAT topic? I found myself asking. But to add yet another twist, Reinke has read so widely in scholarly and religious sources that I do not hesitate to call the book a triumph of scholarship. Reinke writes with an infectious and winsome enthusiasm. It is hard to imagine a reader of this book who would not catch the spark for reading after encountering Reinke’s excitement about reading and his carefully reasoned defense of it.”
Leland Ryken, author, The ESV and the English Bible Legacy

“If you don’t read books as both a discipline and a delight, then you should; and if you need help here, as in truth all of us do, more or less, then this is the book for you. Don’t miss it!”
J. I. Packer, Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology, Regent College; author, Knowing God

“Christians are people of the Book, and books are a very important part of Christian culture and Christian life. One of the most important gifts God has given us is the ability to read and to communicate from one mind to another by means of the printed page. Throughout the history of the Christian church, books have become some of the most cherished friends, teachers, and companions along the way. But reading is a matter of spiritual discipline, not just a matter of literacy. Tony Reinke helps us to understand how to grow through disciplined reading, not only as readers but also as Christians.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“How to read, what to read, who to read, when to read, and why you should read—Tony Reinke answers all these questions and more in this very good and (surprisingly) brief book on reading. As he shows how reading can bring glory to God and growth to the church, Reinke encourages Christians to take up the discipline of reading widely and wisely.”
Trevin Waxeditor, LifeWay Christian Resources; author, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals

“This is the perfect book for someone who doesn’t like to read, or who likes to read but isn’t sure it’s a good use of their time, or who loves to read a little too much and needs to proceed with discernment. Tony Reinke has made a wise, theological, and edifying case for why words matter. I’ll mention Lit! every time someone asks me why in the world Christians should read fiction—a question that never fails to shock me. Now, instead of snapping, ‘Are you serious?’ and spouting opinions, I’ll just smile and slip them a copy of this book.”
Andrew Peterson, singer/songwriter; author, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

“Tony Reinke does not just read, but he reads well, and these are two very different things. If you are not much of a reader, consider Lit! a part of your education. Tony will teach you to read, to read widely, and to read well. If you are already an avid reader, consider Lit! an investment that will instruct you in how to read better.”

Tim Challies, Christian Blogger Challies.com; Editor, Discerning Reader; Author The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

“If you read one book a week for the next 50 years you’ll read about 2,600 books. Not a lot when you think of all the books you could read. So should you include this book in your list? Yes. Because Lit! will help you read the right books in the right way. Tony Reinke sets our reading in a biblical framework and provides practical tips to make the most of books. I warmly commend it.”
Tim Chester, Director, The Porterbrook Seminary; author, You Can Change and A Meal With Jesus

“Since God decided ideas are best expressed in words, and that The Idea—the revelation of his Son as Lord and Savior—is to be learned through his timeless and matchless Word, Christians must dare not to lose sight of the primacy of books amidst the torrent of fast-moving, visual images of our culture. Tony Reinke argues from Scripture and life experience that ‘reading is a way to preserve and cultivate the sustained linear concentration we need for life.’ As an educator, I couldn’t agree more! Sustained reading must remain the heartbeat of any worthy educational program that seeks to produce Christian thinkers, leaders, and apologists. Homeschooling parents who are trying to craft reading lists as they raise Christian children will find gracious and principled guidance here. Moreover, Tony offers great ideas for parents to foster a love for reading, beginning with their own example.”
Marcia Somerville, president, Lampstand Press; author, the Tapestry of Grace homeschool curriculum

 

Music and reading

Posted: February 25, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Reading, Thoughts

There are some people who would prefer to shut off all electronics as they read. Other people like the background noise of a coffee shop and conversation. I can’t really read or be productive with either of those. I catch myself feeling way too lonely if there is no noise, and if there is a conversation it is hard for me not to get distracted.

Another thing, I can’t seem to read unless I am drinking something. Coffee, tea, or something is usually near me so that as I stop and reflect…I take a sip and take it in.

So here is my routine. I normally get a drink ready, find my fine print sharpie, and put my head phones in. Depending on what I am reading I normally listen to different music. Some of my favorites are Coldplay’s Parachutes album. The chill acoustics helps me relax and take the book in. Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds album at Luther college gets the same feel.

If I am blogging around or I am reading something would require less mental activity, I listen to something jazzy like Sinatra, Joe Pass, and Buble.

But to be honest. I am in need of some new reading music. I am done with Mraz, Radiohead, and the other music I am currently listening to. Do you have any you would recommend? Do you read with music? Classical? Instrumental? What is your preference?

Here is one of my favorites

A helpful analogy to making God look trustworthy to others.

Posted: February 24, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts

Here is a helpful analogy by John Piper…

Your daddy is standing in a swimming pool out a little bit from the edge. You are, let’s say, three years old and standing on the edge of the pool. Daddy holds out his arms to you and says, “Jump, I’ll catch you. I promise.” Now, how do you make your daddy look good at that moment? Answer: trust him and jump. Have faith in him and jump. That makes him look strong and wise and loving. But if you won’t jump, if you shake your head and run away from the edge, you make your daddy look bad. It looks like you are saying, “he can’t catch me” or “he won’t catch me” or “it’s not a good idea to do what he tells me to do.” And all three of those make your dad look bad.

But you don’t want to make God look bad. So you trust him. Then you make him look good–which he really is. And that is what we mean when we say, “Faith glorifies God” or “Faith gives God glory.” It makes him look as good as he really is. So trusting God is really important.

And the harder it seems for him to fulfill his promise, the better he looks when you trust him. Suppose that you are at the deep end of a pool by the diving board. You are four years old and can’t swim, and your daddy is at the other end of the pool. Suddenly a big, mean dog crawls under the fence and shows his teeth and growls at you and starts coming toward you to bite you. You crawl up on the diving board and walk toward the end to get away from him. The dog puts his front paws up on the diving board. Just then, your daddy sees what’s happening and calls out, “Johnny, jump in the water. I’ll get you.”

Now, you have never jumped from one meter high and you can’t swim and your daddy is not underneath you and this water is way over your head. How do you make your daddy look good in that moment? You jump. And almost as soon as you hit the water, you feel his hands under your arms and he treads water holding you safely while someone chases the dog away. Then he takes you to the side of the pool.

We give glory to God when we trust him to do what he has promised to do–especially when all human possibilities are exhausted. Faith glorifies God. That is why God planned for faith to be the way we are justified.

Am I suffering because God doesn’t care about me?

Posted: February 23, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Theology, Thoughts

I was talking to someone recently who felt as though everything was crumbling. They felt as though God did not care about them. This person was saying that the next couple of months are going to be stressful and it seems as though it is going to be difficult to get through.

How should we respond to circumstances that seem to bring the weight of the world on our shoulders? What does the Bible have to say about suffering? Is suffering judgment from God?

First, I think it is necessary to address the starting point. That is, having a right understanding of who God is. God is the sovereign orchestrator who rules and reigns over every sphere of life. The Bible is clear that God is working all things for the good of those who believe in Him (Romans 8:28). He works all things according to the council of His will (Ephesians 1:11). He is even sovereign over the evil men do, and uses it for His purpose (Gen 50:20).  God is all good, all knowing, all wise, and all powerful. This means that there is no greater choice that could have been made, no plan could be wiser, and no plan could be more good or meaningful than the one God chooses for us. But this still doesn’t answer the question of why suffering.

Why suffering then? I believe that the Bible nowhere states that suffering is always an act of judgment. I do see it used as a form of judgment, but it is not the only reason for suffering. In James chapter 1 we see it as the means by which God builds character and perseverance in believers. In 2 Timothy 3:12 we see that those who want to live a godly life will be go through some form of persecution. We will be heirs with Christ provided we suffer with Him (Romans 8:17) This leads me to agree with John Piper who says that “wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians”. When suffering comes– and I promise you, it will come– we don’t need a small view of suffering. What we need is a bigger, and more biblical view of who God is. A robust understanding of God will keep us grounded when the storms come in.

God upholds the universe by the power of His word (Heb 1:3). He calms storms and cast out demons and has His disciples saying “Who is this, that even the winds obey Him?” Christ is God in the flesh (John1:14) and through faith and repentance we can cry out to him who is interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34). He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb 13:5)

Even more, Jesus doesn’t tell us to suffer alone. Isolation in suffering will only lead to more questions. In fact, he calls us to enter the “fellowship of his sufferings” (Phil 3:10). In a mysterious way suffering brings us that much closer to a sympathetic Savior who is for us and understands us (Heb 4:15). Don’t let suffering make you feel alone. It is in the midst of your weakness that God makes his power made known (2 Cor 12:9).

I have one last thought that I hope encourages you to find your hope in Jesus. We find in Philippians 4:13 a verse that is usually misused in so many ways. It says “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” and many people, forgetting the context in the surrounding passages, cling to this verse as a fuel to get up and get it done. Almost like a, “He promises to get me through everything type of mindset”. This text is so much more than, “Jesus is my self-centered strength to do everything.” It is more like, “Jesus is the foundation by which nothing else matters but Him.”

In the context Paul is talking about being content and knowing what it is like to face plenty, to have little, to have in abundance, and be in need.  In light of this I believe the point of this verse is this: Situations and circumstances change, yet the only thing that does not change is my standing in Christ who is my strength by which I can endure all things! Christ has taken the biggest suffering we can face away, namely, the wrath of God . Those who have placed faith in Christ have no fear of the greatest suffering and are promised eternal rest. He has made us heirs provided we suffer with Him, and is interceding for us. We can make it through temporal suffering because Christ has conquered eternal suffering for us. We can walk through suffering with hope knowing that we are entering a specific kind of fellowship with Jesus.

A new blogger in need of help…

Posted: February 21, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts

Hey everyone,

I know that some of you have blogs and would have a rhythm for writing, topics, give aways, pro’s and cons to certain things… I am new to this whole blogpsphere and would love to get any links, articles, or books that you all would recommend any blogger to read.

Comment or email me your experience and what you have learned from blogging. Here are some of the questions I have…

How often should I post? 

Should there be a single theme to my blog? Or should it be a well rounded site?

Do you write as you post? Do you taking a day to write out a series of posts? 

What are some ways that you have created traffic on your blog? 

What critiques or feedback would you have for the layout and content of this blog? 

I hope this would make this blog better. I want the reading experience to be pleasing. I don’t want this to become a public journal that no one ever visits. haha

Go Terps!! (too good not to post)

Posted: February 17, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Uncategorized

If you ever get a chance to watch Maryland face Duke in any sporting event…I would highly recommend it. Unfortunately, I missed this yesterday. But the Turgeonites outdid themselves last night leading the Terps to do this…