Thursday, March 29, 2012

How I Read Books

Starting note: I realize that explaining how I read books may be a boring topic to some of you, so you have my permission to not finish this post.*

I would argue that how you read books is just as important as the number or type of books you read.  (You can read 50 books a year, but if you don't do so in a way that allows you to digest, assimilate or reject the information you read, and then potentially change your life, you just spent a lot of time reading text and turning pages with no real benefit.)

How can we read in a way that leaves us a better follower of Jesus?  (Not merely with more head knowledge.)

Here's my attempt at doing so:
  • Read less and read slowly:  As per my 2012 Reading List, I'm trying to read about 12 books this year.  I'm sure more avid readers laugh at that number, but I've found that a book a month is about all I can read and still have a chance to do something with it.  Similarly I read a chapter or two from those books each week week.  I'm not punching out an entire book in two nights.  Letting the ideas run through your mind throughout a week or day is a great way to filter what you're reading:  What's true?  What's useful?  What's neither of these?  What do I need to change?  What do I need to reject?
  • Take notes:  I used to be a more avid note taker.  But now it seems I only pen things in my book journal if they truly stand out to me and I feel that they would be helpful to me in the future.
  • Review your notes sooner: For me, this is when I write my How I Read It posts.  The goal here is that soon after reading you ask yourself: What stood out and what is worth hanging on to?
  • Review your notes later: For most of the books I've reviewed on this blog, this step hasn't happened yet.  But when I fill up my book journals, I slow down my pace of reading even more while I review what I read over the last few years.  At this point it's pretty amazing how little rises to the surface as important.  But what does stick around is usually gold.
Read.  Read the Bible first.  Read other books if you have time.  But only read other books if you can do something with them

* You always have my permission to stop reading a blog post.  Or to unsubscribe to my blog altogether.  Only take the time to read it if it's valuable to you.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Sabbath in the New Testament

Previous Posts:  The Sabbath Part 1 and Old Testament Sabbath Thoughts

What can we learn from the New Testament about the Sabbath?

First, while Jesus didn't tell anyone to stop taking a Sabbath, he demonstrated that he wasn't bound to the Sabbath in a legalistic way.  This is evidenced in multiple healings that occurred on the Sabbath (Luke 6, 13 and 14).

We learn two important truths in Matthew 12, Mark 2-3 and Luke 6 (parallel passages all telling the same story):
1) Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.
2) The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Based on those truths, here's where I come out on the Sabbath:
a) You don't need to take one.  You really don't.
b) On the other hand, God gave the Sabbath as a gift and sign to the Israelites.  I think I can accurately say that it was counter-cultural back in their day.  Today?  Not required, but very opposite the current culture of more-faster-fuller.
c) Based on personal experience, the weekly Sabbath my family takes is a huge blessing to my life and ministry.  They keep my wife "on board" with ministry, even during busy seasons.  They provide a weekly break that allows me to re-focus on what's truly important.
d) But you don't need to take one. (Did I say that already?)  The Sabbath is no longer a rule or requirement, it was made for us.
e) Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, much like every other day of the week.  Whatever day of the week it is, you should live it with him.

So there is the ramble, any thoughts from you?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Daily Prayers

I find it helpful to write out prayers for the things I regularly seek the Lord about.  Taking the time to fully write out a prayer can help me break out of the routine of merely saying prayers and into really praying.  They help me put to words what I truly desire in a situation, which then helps me line up my desires with what God would desire.

Here's a sampling of some of my daily prayers.  I offer them as an idea for you and your personal prayers to God.

Jesus, when it comes to our house and home, give us exactly what we need when we need it.  May we be grateful for what you've already given us.  Give us peace and direction about [any specific home we're looking into.]

Jesus, please protect me from sexual temptation.  When it does come, help me to pre-decide to act with purity by asking others to pray. May my desire be for your glory, to honor my wife and to inspire my sons.  Help me to NOT be motivated by my own glory.

Jesus, please draw my kids to you.  May they become followers of you who make disciples for you.  Help me to stay engaged as a parent and live and seek you as I would want them to.  Protect my boys from sexual impurity. According to your will, be preparing a wife for them who is following Jesus.

Do you have any prayers that you need to write out?

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Jackson Filter

It's hiring season at Camp of Champions USA.

We're in the midst of searching for 125+ summer staff members.  It's both exciting and nerve-racking.  Exciting because the eventual potential of these candidates to change the world is through the roof.  Nerve-racking because one mis-hire could mean disaster.

But this year, I've got a new filter to help me as we hire staff: The Jackson Filter.

Jackson (my oldest son) is able to attend camp this summer.  So with every potential staff member I've been asking myself: Would I want Jackson in this person's care?

This isn't really a new idea: We've always asked all references to tell us if they would be comfortable having their child with potential staff members.

But somehow it comes a little closer to home when it's my own son!

I'm not sure, but I think this could translate to other lines of work as well.  If you're a youth pastor, is the ministry at a point where you would feel comfortable with your own teenager in it (even if you were gone)?  If you're an insurance salesman, would you want your mother coming to your office to buy insurance (even if you're not there to make sure she's treated well.)*

Just a thought...

*I'm thinking the odds that an insurance salesman reads this blog are pretty low, but you never know.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

BOOR March 2011: The Perpetuity Problem

A longer article, but well worth your time:  The Perpetuity Problem by Skye Jethani

Here are some highlight quotes:

"Many in ministry have come to believe that if something lasts, if it continues even after we have stepped away, then it can be considered a success."

"The ministry is not assessed by how faithful God’s people were or even by the fruit exhibited, but by its ability to continue."

"Can you let go today? If your church or ministry endures for a few years and then dissolves, how would you feel?"

And the best quote in the article:
"Is it possible that we care a great deal about perpetuity because we aren’t just building God’s kingdom but our own?"

Monday, March 12, 2012

On Books and Relationships

Seth Godin once said:

"Until further notice, books remain your #1 entertainment and learning value. Have you ever finished a book and not felt smarter?"

I would agree with him, mostly... but I think I might offer a quote of my own:

"Until further notice, genuine and honest relationships remain your #1 value.  Have you ever met with someone and not been blessed?"

IF my re-quote is true, what are you doing this week to cultivate genuine and and honest relationships?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How I Read It: Margin

A few thoughts and points from Margin by Richard Swenson.

Quotable: Most of this book is quotable, but I'll try to pick a few highlights:
"Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity."
"It is God the Creator who made limits, and it is the same God who placed them within us for our protection. We exceed them at our peril."
"All margins- in emotional energy, in physical energy, in time, and especially in finances... ought first to honor God.  All margins ought to be made available to the purposes of his kingdom."
"Always speak the truth and you'll never be concerned with your memory."

What I Liked:  The concept of Margin.  The idea that all of us need space in our lives.  We need extra padding in our time, finances, emotions, and physical energy.  (See the second quote above.)

What I Liked II:  Swenson gave us permission to have Margin in our lives.  You don't need to feel guilty spending a night (or multiple nights) at home with your family just enjoying life.  It's okay to take a Sabbath.  It's okay to say No.

What I Didn't Like:  I honestly didn't come across much that I didn't like.  This book was great.  If you're reading this, you most likely have access to the internet, which means you most likely live in America or another western nation, which means that you most likely should read this book.

What I Liked III:  The book ended with a call to Contentment, Simplicity, Balance, and Rest.  I would call you, the reader, to those things as well.  I don't know anyone who could not benefit from being more content, living more simply, holding all of life in balance, and having more rest.

What I Liked IV:  Just kidding, but I need to stop reviewing this book before this post gets longer than it already is!

2012 Personal Impact Ranking
1. Margin by Richard Swenson
2. Revolution in World Missions by KP Yohannan*

*I own this book and you're welcome to borrow it.  Just ask.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What makes a Sabbath?

Here's where we started on the Sabbath.

Today I'm going to cover a couple verses from the Old Testament.  You can find a full list of Sabbath passages here.

Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.  (Exodus 31:15 ESV; Also see verses 12-17)

For the nation of Israel, what defined the Sabbath was that they didn't do anything.  It's almost mind-blowing in our super-fast culture today.  Don't do any work.  Period.

I've heard the following said about taking a Sabbath in our culture today:
"As long as what you're doing isn't stressful to you it can still be a Sabbath."
"To really be a Sabbath you need to be doing something to connect to God."

I'm not sure either of those are correct.

First off, the point wasn't the stress.  The point was not working, regardless of the stress.
And secondly, there's obviously nothing wrong with connecting to God.  But for Israel, a Sabbath was a Sabbath because they didn't do work.  It didn't become a Sabbath because of them doing holy activities, it was a Sabbath -- it was holy -- because they didn't do anything.  The very act of taking a day off was what made it a Sabbath.  It set them apart from all of the surrounding nations.

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15 ESV)

The Israelites had been slaves without any time off or days to rest.  Out of Egypt, God gives them a weekly (mandatory) break.  To me, this speaks of the blessing and gift of the Sabbath.  God required them to take a day off, but only because he wanted to bless them with a break.

Next Up: New Testament passages on the Sabbath.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Old Journal Entries

I recently ran across an old journal where I had penned the original thoughts and plans for this blog.  Some of it, quite frankly, is a little embarrassing and naive.

However I found this list of potential content quite interesting in that I seem to have hit on a number of these topics without even remembering that I wanted to.  Here's the list verbatim: Content
  • Multiplying Disciples w/ Accountability Groups
  • Support Raising
  • Staying Skinny
  • Ekklesia
  • Prayer Journal
  • Conversations with ___
  • Summer Day Camps - Good fit for our society
  • Sabbath
  • time management?
  • Why this website?
There's a lesson here on the power of writing things down.  By my count I've written something on half of these topics, and that's without ever looking at this list as a reminder to myself.

Closing question: Anything on that list that you the reader think I should cover? (or write on more in-depth?)