Best books I read in 2015 and would recommend (descending order)

#1    Preaching     by  Timothy Keller    (Truly one of the best reads of my life, and life-changing, ministry focus-changing content. Preachers, this is the only book you need besides the Bible.)

#2    How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie    (More life changing content is contained in these pages than should be allowed by law. Really. Good. Stuff.)

#3    The Heart of Leadership by Mark Miller  (Best book on Leadership I’ve ever encountered and probably ever will encounter)

#4    Building Your Leadership Resume by Johnny Hunt (Pure Leadership Gold)

#5    The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (Re-read -Essential for anyone serious about loving another individual)

#6    Miracles by C.S. Lewis (Heady, solid out of the box take on orthodox doctrine as to be expected-Classic Lewis)

#7     Teen Proofing by John Rosemond (Re-read-Don’t parent kids and not read this by the time they are two. But if you miss the window-read it anyways! It will help keep you out of the crazy house and from killing your teen)

#8    Get Out by Alvin Reid (Insightful ideas on how youth pastors can get out of the office and reach teens)

#9    As You Go by Alvin Reid (Developing a Missional community of teenagers)

#10   More Than Dodgeball by Joshua Griffin (Excerpts from the Hit Blog on Youth Ministry)

#11    Do They Run When They See You Coming by Jonathan Mckee ( On reaching unchurched teens from the guru)

#12   The 7 Checkpoints for Youth Leaders by Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall  (Benchmark work on foundational teaching categories for every youth ministry)

#13    Revitalize by Alvin Reid (re-read -on church revitalization)

#14    Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler  The age of social catastrophe by Robert Gellately (Super read if you love History and are interested in WWII -720 pages of small print)

#15    ISIS Inside the Army of Terror  by  Hasad Hasad

#16    Happy, Happy, Happy, My life and legacy as the Duck Commander by Phil Robertson  (Very Fun and Interesting and impactful Biography)

#17    What It Means To Be A Man  By Rhett Smith (your basic Biblical Manhood with really good application)

#18     I am a Church Member by Thom Rainer  (Short and basic but a needful reminder)

Top 11 Books I read in 2014 and recommend to you.

Sun Stand Still – Steven Furtick

Soul Detox – Craig Groeschel

Epic Grace – Kurt Bubna

Mere Christianity (re-read) – C.S. Lewis

The Power of God’s Names-Tony Evan’s

The Business Wisdom of Steve Jobs – Alan Ken Thomas

The ScrewTape Letters – C.S. Lewis

The Great Divorce (re-read) – C.S. Lewis

Good Call: Reflections on Faith, Family, and Fowl (biography) — Jase Robertson

All In – Mark Batterson

On The New Testament (a book you’ll actually read) – Mark Driscoll

The Business of God

We live in a now society. Pleasure now, fun now, fast food; what’s taking so long?
Read the words of R. C. Sproul:

“The world spirit invites us to play now and pay later, though the emphasis is on the now. This is the popular way to go. For the christian to resist the seduction of this world he must risk going against the tide.”

He’s talking about the fact that Christians must resist this spirit by abstaining from sinful things that our culture encourages us to indulge in. Mostly good things that are bad at the wrong time. Like sex-in marriage it’s a great thing. Before marriage it’s fornication: a sin.

I would add that this spirit of play now, pay later, not only must be resisted by Christians but by anyone who’s going to do anything in life other than waste it fooling around. It applies to the student investing his time now in study and preparation for a future career. It applies to the woman who is working tirelessly and saving money to open a fashion boutique one day. This reverses the old adage to a new one: pay now, play later.

I have experienced each side of this coin: the play now, pay later: with the party life as a young man.
The pay now, play later: working hard through college to now enjoy my career.

I even know of another example that is interesting. When I was younger i was in a band for many years. We tried to make it big. We would sit and practice on nights when other’s were out partying and living it up. They used to taunt us and alienate us for being so consumed with the band. They just didn’t get it. So, if you pay now to play later, you can expect taunting and alienation and people who just won’t get it, no matter what the thing is.

So, the question becomes: what are you living for? The here? The now? Or are you investing in the future? Once you answer that, you have an answer for the seduction of the world and the people who write you off as crazy, stupid, or worse.

Geddy Lee, the lead singer of the band Rush said it well:

Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cage

Living in the limelight
The universal dream
For those who wish to seem
Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation
Get on with the fascination
The real relation
The underlying theme

-Limelight

Those who wish to be must “put aside the alienation, get on with the fascination….the underlying theme…”

So, pay now, play later is not some concept the christians devised. It’s a wise principle of life. It’s the “underlying theme” for “those who wish to be.” Be what? To be anything worthwhile. If your’e not actively working towards becoming that, your’e just dreaming.

God is calling all who get this concept of wisdom to invest their now in his kingdom for later. It doesn’t mean we don’t have fun ever. We still do have a lot of fun now and enjoy life very much with all it’s blessings, just in the proper timing and way that God has prescribed. And we are investing our lives in God’s business, the business of winning souls to him and preparing everyone for a future kingdom that is coming one day.

We are “in touch with some reality, beyond the gilded cage,” and so are all who pay now to play later. I invite you to come pay now with us, so you can experience the great play later.

Paying now, in the christian context is living for the one who paid it all. Our savior Jesus, who beckons us “come and die” (luke 9:23) also promises us that he will resurrect us: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11:25)

The foolishness of God.

               I’m so beyond tired of hearing from people who have been around the church all their life, and have even read most of the Bible, who still have a problem after YEARS of teaching, with the literal-ness of the miracles of the Bible.

Why do you have a problem with a literal genesis? Or Job? or Jonah?
The answer is found in the answer to another question:
How big is your God? 
 
Besides the gobs of hermeneutical support for a literal genesis, including the fact that Jesus preached on it as being literal (Mark 10:6) and so did many other church fathers; there is the whole “this is exactly the way God works…” thing.
 
In Jeremiah, God states “I am the God of all flesh…” then asks the question, “is there anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).
 
In 1 Corinithians 1:19-25, it basically states,  the wisdom of man is foolishness to God, and God takes the wise in their “wisdom”, and the “foolishness” of God is wiser than the wisdom of men. 
 
(read the whole passage-it’s awesome-especially verse 21 : “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”)
 
The reason people try to view genesis as poetic is because they have an “intellectual” problem with reconciling creation with evolution. 
 
I submit to you, the problem they really have is that they don’t know God. or at the most, they don’t know him well enough!
 
He is utterly capable and it is exactly His nature to do the things listed in the bible LITERALLY!!! That’s the heart of who God is!!!! He’s in the business of blowing your mind! Don’t believe it? That’s exactly the problem, unbelief is sin; repent and be converted and become like little children. I’m pretty sure Jesus said you can’t experience the kingdom of God unless you do that first.
 
Matthew 18:3  –   Jesus  said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
 
 

Reflections on the Scripture

Psalm 119:45 “And I will walk at liberty, For I seek Your precepts.”

Unknown

The great lie pervading our western postmodern culture is that rules destroy freedom. I admit I don’t like an abundance of rules, especially when they show themselves to be obviously unnecessary. However, laws are necessary for freedom. Paradox of Paradoxes. G.K. Chesterton put forth the best illustration I’ve ever heard of in his book Orthodoxy:

We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the          sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.

The breaking up of laws and constraints actually hinders freedom instead of granting it. We need boundaries. But this is a reflection of scripture, not an apologetic (sometimes I forget). God has laws, God has precepts, God has boundaries. They are for our good and our pleasure, not our demise. Actually, they keep us from peril, much like the fence kept the kids from destruction at the cliffs edge.

In this season of drawing near the Lord in my own spiritual walk; I find that the more I obey from the spirit the doctrines laid out for the Christ-follower in scripture, the more I do what the Lord tells me to, the more freedom I am granted. And, The more relief I feel. Jon Eldrege has a recent book entitled “The Utter Relief of Holiness.” I haven’t read it, but the title says it all. There is a relief when you are being obedient to God. It feels good and everything is right in the world. Not that I’m perfect, just ask my wife! But I believe the Lord and the way you show you believe is by your works. I will walk at liberty, because I seek your precepts. Grant me more grace Lord, you know I need it!

Ten Awesome Books I Read in 2013

In no particular order:

1. Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne

2. Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper-my first piper book-I’m now definitely a fan!

3. The Cause Within You by Matthew Barnett-this guy is a fireball and has one of the biggest visions around today for God’s kingdom and gets it done!

4. Replenish by Lance Witt (re-read)

5. A Call To Resurgence by Mark Driscoll-(Church leaders, you cannot afford to NOT read this book!)

6. Jesus Among Other Gods -Ravi Zacharias-philosophical-Jesus is compared and contrasted with other gods to see what they have in common as well as, what sets them apart.

7. Failing Forward by John Maxwell-how to learn from your mistakes and use them to your advantage.

8. Praying Circles Around your Children by Mark Batterson-If you have kids or are planning on it one day-get this book! Only 1.99 on Kindle!

9. The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni-Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything else in Business.

10. Church Marketing 101 by Richard Reising-a timely word for the church-should be required reading for every church leader.

Read the Bible 4x Faster

I don’t know about you, but I suck at keeping New Year’s Resolutions! Do they EVER work? If you’re like me I make a new resolution each year and I’m real gung-ho about it for 90 days or less-usually less. Last year, my resolution was to read the NIV Bible through in a year. Did it happen? Absolutely not! I went about 90 days and just lost steam. Well, to be honest I have never read the Bible through in one year. I read it through in 2 and some change. For me, it feels like a yoke on my neck after awhile and a duty, rather than a privilege.

So, I recently discovered the solution! it’s called B90x. That’s not a typo. This is a reading plan that will take you through the entire Bible in 90 days or less! That’s 4 times faster than a one year plan! I know that’s aggressive but if you think about it, that’s harder work for less time, rather than hard work for a longer time. I’m 5 days in and still excited! Will you join me? Here is the plan-created by Elevation church: http://www.stevenfurtick.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/B90X.pdf

There are also 2 “Grace” days-so technically, you could finish the Bible in 88 days if you don’t use them. But I probably will.

So, rather than feeling defeated after 90 days, I’m gonna feel victory and read whatever I want for the rest of the year! Let me know if you decide to join me!

~Disclaimer~Bible reading plans are not the same as devotions in the Word and prayer with God. For my purposes, Bible reading plans are a discipline. Devotions should be done daily, all year long, every year of your life, as much as is possible.