At the Mercy of the “Whether”

Whenever there’s a threat of a snowstorm school kids wait with baited breath as to whether the weather will give them the highly anticipated “Snow Day!”

Every hurricane and typhoon season, extremely vulnerable places like the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the U.S. brace themselves for catastrophic and costly damage left in the wakes of these destructive weather patterns. Of course, these destructive weather patterns are not unique to the U.S. Their impacts can be felt on a global scale.

Despite man’s best advancements in science, technology, and mobility, we’re still at the mercy of the weather.

There is another destructive pattern I’ve seen over the years and even experienced myself. It’s not a weather pattern, it’s more like a “whether” pattern. I know, the grammar police are already seething right now, and probably have even passed up reading this blog post altogether because of my seeming misuse of “whether” vs. “weather.” But, rest assured this is intentional.

Living at the mercy of the “whether” is much like living at the mercy of the “weather.” The weather determines whether (there it is again) we’re going to have a picnic, parade, or other enjoyable outdoor activity. Sure, contingency plans can be made, but trying to have a barbecue or pitch horseshoes indoors just doesn’t have the same effect. Weather can either make or break an outdoor event.

But, what bearing does “whether” have, if any, on our life’s events? I’m glad you asked! As a formally diagnosed perfectionist, I find I can be at the mercy of the “whether.” Whether or not I can do a thing perfectly has hindered me in countless areas of my life. I often have to have “all my ducks in a row” to the point of almost OCD before I feel confident enough to pull the trigger on a project, or even make a blog post (ouch!). I’ve often been the victim of paralysis by analysis. I’m a great planner, but there are just times you have to gather whatever information you can, experts say 80% is a good number, and execute the plan!

Here is some more “whether” patterns for you…

Whether or not I can do it perfectly…

Whether I have perfect conditions for producing…

Whether or not someone else does their part, or lives up to their end of the deal…

Whether I have someone else’s approval…

Whether I “feel” like it or not….

Whether, whether, whether. This is just a  very small sampling. You may have a list of your own.

Being at the mercy of the whether can sabotage your future. Placing unreasonable conditions for our success based on whether someone else thinks we’re capable or not, worthy or not, or good enough or not, is no way to live your life. Be whom God called you to be in spite of the whether! God has uniquely gifted and qualified you with talents and abilities, whether others agree or not. Do not let their whether hold you hostage from the Divine plan God has wonderfully and masterfully orchestrated just for you.

There’s a term meteorologists use called “weather maker.” It’s a term used loosely to describe weather conditions or patterns that are ripe for the creation of rain, sleet, snow, or ice. These patterns are so powerful they have the potential to cause disruptions to our daily lives. On the flipside, what if you became your own “whether maker?” What if you created your own climate and allowed the atmosphere of your own life to be filled with faith, hope, strength, and courage?

I’m a believer in climate change. The Apostle Paul was too. He challenged us to create a powerful and positive climate of thought in our minds.

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

What if we started to intentionally stage our lives, even strategically position our lives, for the potential for success in whatever God has called us to do, and just as importantly…be?

We must pray, seek God, seek wise counsel, study, and prepare for success in our godly endeavors a.k.a. be “whether” makers!” Be a champion for climate change in your life and the lives of those you influence.

Don’t let the whether of others cloud your vision. If there are clouds, see them as ripe with rain and ready to pour out their abundance in your life. Weather may stall some of our plans, but whether or not you’re child of God is not up for debate if He has called you and sanctified you!

Like weatherman “wannabe’s” some may point their proverbial wetted finger in the air and say, “Nope, not today buddy! The whether isn’t looking promising for your future success.” You just look ’em in the eye and say, “You know what, it doesn’t matter what your whether says. I believe in climate change!”

Remember this verse as I close, Matthew 5:45, “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

When it comes to living out your purpose God wants to rain on your parade in a good way. He wants to rain (and reign) in your life. He wants to allow the showers of blessings to be poured out in great abundance!

Never listen to the “whether makers,” listen to the original “Weather Maker!” As the old song says, “I know the Master of the wind and Maker of the rain.”

The Art of Adding by Subtracting


I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! ~ Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:31 ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ~ Apostle Paul (Galatians 2:20 ESV)

What was Paul’s seeming obsession with death? “Dying daily” and “Crucified with Christ” are very descriptive, and honestly, a little depressing if read out of context. But Paul discovered an important principle of growth and advancement of God’s divine purpose in our lives; in order to bring certain things to life, one must allow a part of themselves to die.

Think about what Christ’s death on Calvary provided the world. Jesus came to “bring life more abundantly” (John 10:10). The only way for this abundant life to come to pass was through His death. We can look at this from a variety of angles, but for the purpose of this post, when we’re willing to let something die, it makes room for God to bring something to life. Jesus vividly illustrated this point when he taught His disciples:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24 KJV)

I don’t pretend to understand exactly how this works, but I know about the law of saturation. Our lives can only handle so much. We juggle priorities, or what we think are priorities, we shift responsibilities, and we struggle to keep up. We lack margin in our lives but margin is where we get rest. Margin is where we create. Margin is where we can add new habits, new discoveries, new insight, and even new relationships. One such relationship that continuously requires cultivating is our relationship with God. But God is not content to dwell in just the margins of our lives.

God refuses to compete with any-ONE or any-THING. This means something has to give; something must die. If you re-read Paul’s first quote above, you’ll find he made this a daily discipline. He “died daily.” Something must be sacrificed daily. It was true in Old Testament days, and still rings true in our personal devotions to God. A part of ourselves must die daily that more of God can be revealed. This is a discipline devoted and devout followers of Christ know well. Like John the Baptist said, “I must decrease, and He must increase.”

So, my question is, what are you willing to allow to die in order to give life to a fresh relationship with God? What part of yourself are you willing to crucify to allow the reality of Christ’s love to flourish and abound in your life? What will you sacrifice daily to make room for more of God in your life?

The beauty of this is, when we allow something to die, God brings something more meaningful and powerful to life in us. And, this my friend, is the art of adding by subtracting. 

Is Your Prayer Life Worth Dying For?

prayer-poseNow when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Daniel 6:10

Prayer. One of the most underestimated and undervalued sources of Christian influence and godly persuasion. Sadly, it’s treated more like an obligation and duty, rather than a privilege and honor. For Daniel, prayer was worth dying for. Communication with his Creator was his lifeline. How big of a threat Daniel’s prayer life must have been for the political zealots to single him out by criminalizing his open and obvious daily habit?

This brings to mind a couple of challenging questions in our own lives regarding the prominence of and proclivity toward prayer.

  1. Is your prayer life powerful enough to make a statement both before God and man? As a rule, it’s not our desire to have our prayer life viewed as a threat, but to the enemy of our souls, our prayer life is DEFCON LEVEL 1! Is our prayer life a threat or a mere of an annoyance?
  2. If by chance the powers-that-be would endeavor to legislate against prayer, would it even matter to you? Would it leave such a void that the absence of prayer in your life would be catastrophic and cripple you spiritually?
  3. Is prayer so essential and so vital to your existence that you would be willing to risk your life to continue praying in spite of the dire consequences Daniel faced?
  4. Lastly, and more painfully, if there was ever a law decreed against prayer, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

If you view prayer as an annoyance and disruption to your life, that’s all the enemy needs to exterminate your prayer life altogether.

Ironically, the very law that made Daniel’s prayer life criminal, was the same one that galvanized his resolve to pray even MORE! And, his opponents were destroyed by the same form of punishment that was created for him. Talk about turning the holy tables on the enemy!

Never underestimate the power your prayer can have. The Words of Jesus shed further insight on the impact a prayer life full of faith can have when He said, “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” Mark 11:23

Now a prayer life that can accomplish such a monumental feat as this, to me is worth dying for!

Birth of a Vision

 

Notes as delivered to ALJC World Missions University at Whitestone Inn – Kingston, TN (February 2017)

Intro

Everyone ends up somewhere in life. A few people end up somewhere on purpose. Those are the ones with vision. – Andy Stanley

Personally, I believe to be a missionary, you must be a visionary!

But, do you ever feel like you’re driven more by maintenance than you are mission?

  • You’re having to maintain your family responsibilities…
  • Your church and ministry responsibilities…
  • Your responsibility to your supporters…

And, really, if we’re being completely honest, we have a huge responsibility to God for ensuring we live humbly and righteously before Him.

But a man with a vision, and a man on a mission, is virtually unstoppable!

Operation Auca

Five dedicated and committed Christian Missionaries headed to the deep dark recesses of the Ecuadorian Rainforest in search of the Huaoroni Tribe. It was purported this tribe had never heard of the name of Jesus, and for these five missionaries that was reason enough to launch out.

After several successful supply drops to the area that included food, clothing, and even toys for the children, Nate Saint, their pilot felt confident he could land his bi-plane on a narrow sandbar along the Curaray River.

On January 8, 1956, the team set up camp at “Palm Beach” and awaited contact with the tribe. To their delight a curious Huarononi Family showed up and seemed receptive to the kind gestures of the team.

After several hours, the family retreated back into the heart of the jungle and the missionary team was thrilled beyond words. They radioed back to base reporting their success.

Shortly thereafter their radio fell eerily silent. Hoping against hope the radio was simply out of range or had somehow failed, a search party was sent to check on the team.

Their worst fears were realized. Huarononi warriors had returned after the initial encounter and ran all five missionaries through with spears, leaving their lifeless bodies bleeding in the very river they had only hours before been playfully interacting with the tribe.

Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian, all paid the supreme price for a vision they felt was worth giving their lives for.

News of their untimely and horrific deaths was broadcast across the globe and a photo essay was published in Life Magazine.

The deaths of the men galvanized missionary efforts in the United States, sparking an outpouring of funding for evangelization efforts around the world.

Elisabeth, Jim Elliot’s widow, and Rachel, Nick Saint’s sister, returned to Ecuador years later to live among the very people who had slain their family. Great in-roads were made, and even the very warrior who had slain the brave missionaries came to know the Lord.

The heroic story was further documented and made into a book and movie entitled, End of the Spear.

Despite the dangers and uncertainty, these brave missionaries had such a strong and compelling vision they were willing to lay down their lives to share the Gospel with every living creature.

A God without Limits

We serve a God that can do anything and everything. The Bible states and restates, there is nothing too hard for God. God has no limits other than the ones He chooses to impose upon Himself. One of those limits is He refuses to work where faith is not present.

In fact, Hebrews tells us without faith it is impossible to please God.

So, if God has no limits, wherein lies the challenge for us? Where do our own spiritual limits come from? We’re only limited by the size of our vision men.

Write this down: Vision is believing what COULD be SHOULD be.  

It is the deep-seated conviction that things can no longer continue the way they are.

Typically, we see vision as only being necessary in the context of leadership, running a company, and definitely in pastoring a church.

But, I submit to you today, we must have a vision for every area of our lives but especially in each of the key roles we are assigned along life’s journey.

We are multi-faceted people, and therefore our vision must be multi-faceted. We should have a vision for not only our church, our ministry, and those we lead, but a vision for our marriage, our relationships, and our personal lives.

Visionless Dead People

I would be remiss if I did not reference this vital scripture in the discussion of vision: Proverbs 29:18, Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

I get that the portion that states, the people perish, is better translated to mean, the people cast off restraint, or, the people run wild.

But let’s not get too sophisticated in our original Hebrew and maintain for a moment the inspired King James translators’ original statement.

I mean, if the King James Version was good enough for Peter, James, and John, it’s good enough for me! (Just kidding)

It says, Where there is no vision, the people perish…

I submit to you, visionless people die.

If you rewind in scripture for a moment to Numbers 19:13, Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.

The Old Testament Law was very explicit on the handling of the dead. If you touched dead things, or dead things touched you, you were defiled, and ran the risk of being cut off from God’s people. You were unclean!

See, if you hang around visionless people long enough, if you allow yourself to become contaminated by visionless, dead people, you’re going to defile the vision God has gifted to you.

Don’t allow dead people to defile your vision. It’s a gift from God!

See, this holds true with our influence as well. Hanging around the wrong people can defile your testimony, it can contaminate your calling, it can desecrate your God given vision.

Psalm 1:1-2 says, Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Brothers, we need to be careful about the company we keep! Don’t let your good be evil spoken of! You need to protect the vision God has given you, your family, and your ministry at all costs!

We can’t afford to be numbered amongst those who are being cut off from God’s great plan in this last day.

Adding Meaning to the Mundane

Your vision is critical to the success of not only your family and ministry, but to the people God has called and ordained you to reach!

Write this down: It takes courage to cast vision. It takes clarity to carry out the vision. And, it takes consistency to continue to the vision.

One of the beautiful things about vision is it will add meaning to the mundane. Vision adds significance to an otherwise meaningless existence.

Let’s be honest; vision takes work. And much of the work we do can seem mundane and meaningless.

2 Strikes and You’re Out

I just completed a read through the first 5 books of the Bible. As I read through the seemingly monotonous details of the law that God gave Moses to give to Israel, it becomes abundantly clear, God is as interested in the details as He is in the Big Picture.

Details that many seem inconsequential to us, have far-reaching effects in God’s eyes. If you think God isn’t concerned with details, just ask Moses what disqualified him from entering the Promised Land after contending with the most stiff-necked and stubborn people of that day.

We think it’s 3 strikes and you’re out. For Moses, it was 2 strikes. Why? Because God commanded him to strike the rock one time, not twice.

God stated it this way in Numbers 20:12, “And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”

It’s not just another church service, it’s the opportunity to restore families, lead people to Christ, and to sanctify the Lord in the eyes of His people!

You may think it’s just another Bible study, another sermon, or another visit to the hospital, but it’s another opportunity to sanctify the Lord in the eyes of the people.

The Birth of YOUR Vision

As with any birth, the birth of a vision is to be celebrated and even highly anticipated.

I can still remember the announcement that I would be a father. I celebrated that. And, just as importantly, I remember the day I found out we were going to have a grandson, a granddaughter, and yet another granddaughter is due this June 2017!

The joy, the anticipation, the excitement is wonderful.

To me, the birth of vision is much the same way. When God gives it to you, it’s something that brings such joy and anticipation.

You may not have all the details right away, but at that particular moment all you can focus on is, “I’m going to be a daddy…or granddaddy!”

As the vision begins to take shape, the maturing process is critical, as are each of the other phases of the birthing and development process of vision.

Deliver too soon, and your vision could be premature. When God first gives you a vision, allow it to incubate in your spirit, heart, and mind. Allow it to mature, develop, and come to life in God’s perfect timing.

I know when we were expecting our children, the toughest part, so we thought, was the waiting, but waiting is not wasted time.

As young parents, as inexperienced as we were, we took the time to prepare.

See, you don’t wait until the baby arrives before you prepare the nursery. You buy the crib, you paint and decorate. You buy clothes, diapers, and the essentials.

We took classes in preparation of the birth of our children. They even taught us how to breath during the delivery process. That sounds crazy now, but hey, we were getting ready to give birth, and we were willing to do anything to get ready!

If you’re a person of vision, you typically will have characteristics of a person of action. You’re NOT content with the way things are, and you’re so impassioned that you believe things must change, and they must change now!

The birthing of your vision is critical to the long-term success of your vision. To hurry the developmental process of the vision is to potentially shorten its lifespan.

If you’re serious about your vision, never look at the waiting period, the incubation period, as a waste of time. Use the waiting time to prepare, gather materials, take classes, read, study, and plan on being the best parent of your vision possible!

Abraham and Sarah were given a vision of being the father of many nations, yet they lacked the one thing that would make that vision a reality; a son.

In her haste to rush the process, Sarah gave Abraham her hand maiden to fast-forward the process. It resulted in thousands of years of conflict!

Moses spent 40 years waiting on the vision to come to pass that he would be the future liberator of his people. When he tried to rush the process, he committed felony murder and was exiled from the people he knew God had called him to rescue.

But David on the other hand. Despite being anointed King at a very young age, he didn’t pack his bags and start making a trek to the Palace. Nor did his father and brothers who could have easily allowed themselves to hurry the developmental process.

Christ as well set the supreme example of preparedness. He used His wilderness experience as the catalyst for His future ministry. And, even when it came time to perform His first miracle, at the urging of His mother Mary, He took her lead on whether or not He was ready.

Just as a mother’s body begins to take on the hormonal changes, and physiological changes, in preparation of the birth, so too must our spirit, mind, soul, and even at times our body, be in preparation for the birth of our vision.

Your incubation period is critical to the long-term success of your God given vision! 

H3 Approach to Vision

In his bestselling powerful book on leadership called H3 Leadership: Be Humble, Stay Hungry, and Always Hustle, Brad Lomenick details components of a successful vision statement:

Optimistic: Our vision should be a message of hope. They answer the “why” an organization exists. It must motivate, inspire, and be a call to action.

Lastly, it should devote more words to the solution than to the problem.  

Simple: Hab. 2:2, “Write down the vision, make it plain, so he who reads it may run with it.”

If it takes more than five minutes to memorize, your vision statement is too complicated. If it has bullet points, it needs refinement. It should contain words that are simple, direct, and to the point. And, never use words people will need a dictionary to understand. Never load it down with churchy “christianese.” K.I.S.S. Keep it Super Simple.

Personal: People will work for other people in a way they will not work for anything else. Dan Rockwell wrote, “Vision always centers on people, never projects, programs, properties, or profits.”

Flexible: While it is important to have a certain level of specifics to your vision, allowing your vision to adapt to the inevitable changing tide of culture is imperative. When your vision statement is flexible, it will be liberating instead of limiting.

Pastor Rick Warren said, “Pastors are some of the most underrated change agents in the world.”

That’s absolutely true. As pastors and leaders, we help people navigate much needed change in their lives. Our job is to get them from here to heaven, and the transformation process isn’t always easy. Build your vision around being able to help people navigate change, and your organization, your ministry, or your church will be seen as an essential element of their daily lives.

According to Todd Smith, CEO and Founder of KINEO Resources, “Too many are waiting on God to grow the church. But, growing a church involves both God and man. We can never do what God can ONLY do and He will never do what He has ASKED us to do.”

He goes on to say, “Growing a church requires man doing his part, and letting God do His. Jesus said, “Pray the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers…” God is going to use workers.”

This is work! Harvest takes work.

Some want God to do it all…that’s not how harvest works.

What is Vision?

  • Vision is what you see, and what you want to see. Vision has to do with sight.
  • Vision is a portrait of your preferred future. What kind of future do you want? Have pictures, artist renderings, blueprints, etc. that will inspire people’s interest, support, and generosity.
  • Vision answers the “why” question. Why we are where we are. Why did we choose this location? Why did we plant this church? Everyone must comprehend why we are where we are. NOTE: When we lose our “why” we lose our way!
  • Vision is the dream in your heart…it is the God Dream. God loves dreamers. It would do you good to take a stroll down memory lane. Remember how God led you to that community. You were inescapably drawn to it by God’s call connecting you to your dream.

Helen Keller said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

God has gifted you with a unique vision. It’s been said that when your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near.  

I would encourage you to keep dreaming that God-sized dream. Don’t give into your critics. Don’t be paralyzed by your own fears or self-doubt.

That’s not to say your vision won’t be scary. In fact, one of the best indicators your vision is a God-sized vision is that it is too scary to do by yourself.

A true God-sized vision is a partnership between the Divine and the human.

But be warned, we must be willing to look foolish when it comes to vision.

See, the heroes in the Bible we admire most are those that fought behind enemy lines. They entered into impossible situations and came out victorious; not just because of their faith, but because of their crazy faith; crazy faith in God!

You have to be willing to look foolish; operate outside of your comfort zone; do something you’ve never done before; that’s where your growth takes place!

Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from doing what you absolutely know you MUST do! In fact, The willingness to fail is a prerequisite to success.

But here’s the deal, if you’re NOT willing to look foolish, you’re foolish. In fact, faith is the willingness to look foolish! 

  • Tattoo Shop Bible Study
  • A Trip to Jail

Noah looked foolish building an ark in the middle of dry land!

Sarah looked foolish shopping for maternity clothes at 90 years old.

Joshua and the Israelites looked foolish marching around Jericho and blowing trumpets!

David looked foolish attacking Goliath with slingshot and a stone.

The Wiseman looked foolish chasing a star.

Peter looked foolish stepping out of the boat onto the stormy seas.

And sadly, Jesus looked foolish hanging on a cross, naked, beaten, and tortured.

But that’s the essence of faith, and the results speak for themselves.

Noah and his family were saved from the flood.

Sarah gave birth to a baby boy.

The walls of Jericho came crashing down for Israel.

David defeated Goliath.

The Wiseman found the Messiah.

Peter was the only disciple to join Jesus walking on the water.

And, Jesus resurrected from the dead!

You know why some people never kill a giant, walk on water, or see walls come crashing down in their lives?

Because they weren’t willing to look foolish!

Visionaries can be branded fools because they call things that are not yet existent, as though they have already appeared.

See Romans 4:17, …God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not, as though they were.

Your vision is a direct result of your burden, your passion, your desire. It’s what keeps you up at night, and what gets you up early in the morning. Tap into that constantly.

Our vision is quite literally the ignition point between a God in Heaven, and a man on earth, which can set on fire the passions of man to accomplish God’s Divine purpose.

Suggested Reading:

  1. Visioneering by Andy Stanley
  2. H3 Leadership by Brad Lomenick
  3. Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley
  4. QBQ by John G. Miller
  5. If by Mark Batterson
  6. Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley
  7. The Indigenous Church by Melvin Hodges
  8. Living Forward by Michael Hyatt
  9. All In by Mark Batterson
  10. Lasting Impact by Cary Nieuwhof
  11. 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley
  12. Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson

Rodger Mangold is the pastor and founder of Turning Point Ministries in Rochester, MI. He also serves as the World Missions Director of the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ and is the ALJC World Missions European Field Supervisor to 6 Countries and 7 Missionary Teams. 

 

Air vs. Prayer

hands-of-prayer-christian-stock-imageDo we consider breathing air an obligation, or a necessity?

Do we view eating food, or drinking water as obligations, or necessities?

All essential to life; air, food, water, yet none of them can be considered obligations, or duties.

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”

Job said, “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.”

Can our relationship with Christ be viewed as an obligation or necessity?

You may say, “I need air, food, and water to survive.”

I say you’re absolutely correct…to survive. But, to thrive, to enjoy life, and live life more abundantly, you need a relationship that is not one of obligation, but necessity with Christ.

There is a spiritual state we must strive to attain, one in which we esteem the “Spiritual necessities” with an equal or greater degree of priority in our lives.

More than our necessary food. More than the bread we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe, we cannot survive, let alone thrive as God ordained by neglecting the more essential thing, the one thing that cannot be taken away, a relationship; not a duty, not an obligation, but a joy, a privilege, an honor to bask in the glow of His Divine Presence; to enjoy the warmth of His tender embrace, to esteem our relationship with our Creator above all else…necessary.

100 Book Challenge Week 4 Progress – 8 & 9 of 100 (Plus 1 Bonus)

The exciting aspects of this wisdom quest unfolded tremendously this week for me. One of my favor authors and non-denominational speakers is Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Church just outside of Atlanta, GA. His writing and speaking have a credibility and consistency that seems to be lacking in many mainstream religious leaders and communicators. He’s well respected not just in religious circles but in the circles of business and leadership too. For these reasons I have begun to build a collection of his works.

My current collection includes:

I will be adding soon

  • Visioneering
  • Communicating for Change
  • Choosing to Cheat
  • Ask It
  • Best Question Ever

8. Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley – By far my favorite book to date by Andy Stanley and 1460489103227the most exhaustive of his works regarding planting a church, designing environments to attract unchurched people, crafting messages for unchurched people and church people alike. Andy’s approach is very methodical and intentional.

Chapter 6 gives great insight into North Point’s concept of Spiritual Formation, which they use to quantify spiritual growth as follows –

They describe it as 5 Faith Catalysts which are 5 things God uses to grow your faith.

  • Practical Teaching
  • Private Discipline
  • Personal Ministry
  • Providential Relationships
  • Pivotal Circumstances

Chapter 7 Describes these in detail and provide excellent leadership advice on how best to position people based on one of these 5 catalysts.

One of the major moments for me stood out in Chapter 13…

“Marry your mission.

Date your model.

Fall in love with your vision.

Stay mildly infatuated with your approach.”

Andy does a wonderful job at mapping the mission to the programming as follows –

MISSION —VISION—MODEL—PROGRAMMING (see page. 286)

This skims the surface of this excellent book which reads like a manual on the North Point Systems Based approach to church leadership.

9. Creating Community by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits – I am investigating the feasibility of small groups for our church. I have surveyed a half dozen pastors and have received opinions in every direction. This book cleared up a great deal. I’m not 100% sold on the idea…yet.

51obh1fz6ql-_sx336_bo1204203200_Much of the first few chapters were spent convincing the reader of the importance of community. The authors state God literally created us for community. In fact, they use Creation when God said, “It is not good that man should be alone,” as evidence God wants us to have companionship. While I agree companionship is wonderful and beneficial, I personally felt that readers who may be single, and may have resigned themselves to that fact, may be out of line their opinion of God’s view on being alone. Many biblical leaders, even Jesus was never married, so this comparison should be drawn very carefully.

I did however like the way they correlated the Starbucks Business model to community. They’re not just in the business of selling coffee, they’re in the business of creating community. And, if you think about it, that’s so true. Their environments are conducive to conversation and connection which go great with coffee.

Now, from a church standpoint, I am a strong proponent of community. I can see the benefits of doing life together. Great examples were given in the book of how small groups impacted the lives of people who would have otherwise fallen between the proverbial cracks.

This book was filled with practical reasons on why, and a little on the how, as it applies to small groups, but left me wanting more in the way of a formal process. It could be done using the book, but would involve a great deal more trial and error, and would require high degree of tolerance on behalf of the people you would be asking to sign up for these groups.

Bonus Book(s): Finished Leviticus and began the Book of Numbers. I was so enamored with the Deep and Wide book I re-read several chapters several times. Once I cracked these books open by Andy Stanley, it reminded me of 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley and Reggie Joiner, and I dug up a few chapters from there because they were reference by Andy in Deep and Wide. 

 

100 Book Challenge Week 3 Progress – 6 & 7 of 100 (Plus 2 Bonus)

This week was a tricky week for keeping on target with my goal of a minimum of 2 books per week. In fact, I blogged about how I set goals in a separate post entitled, “100 Book Challenge – Setting Yourself up for Setbacks.” This is no easy undertaking. I read on average maybe 20 books a year and to increase it to 100 will require dipping into the reserves of my tenacity and grit!

The challenges, if I’m being transparent, arise when my routines get disrupted. I’m a pretty regimented guy and when that happens I have to have a contingency plan. With a 2-week margin for catch up out of the 52-week year of hitting 2 books a week minimum, I do not want to have to dip into that reserve if I can avoid it. I’d like to actually use those 2 weeks to get ahead of my goal so I can crush it!

6. The Battle Plan for Prayer by Stephen and Alex Kendrick – Once I recovered from the minor setback of taking one day off, and another one being too busy to crank out so much as a chapter or two, I dialed in and finished up a great book I had started toward the end of last year called “The Battle Plan for Prayer” by Stephen and Alex Kendrick.

battle-plan-for-prayer

From the creators of the famed movie, War Room, and authors of The Love Dare, the Kendrick brothers have written a masterpiece of practical and theoretical wisdom on prayer. Prayer, the most powerful communication tool between us on earth and God in Heaven, is the sadly under utilized. This book  is a must have for any Christian library.

If I could make a suggestion, plan on reading a chapter a day. I plan on using this to teach future studies on prayer and to implement its practices in my personal prayer life as well. We owe the authors a debt of gratitude for penning these words. There’s no way they could have written them without having practiced them, and without the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

As of this post I have not seen War Room, but I will soon. For other resources for using this book as a teaching tool visit the book’s website at LifeWay.com

7. “If – Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities” by Mark Batterson – I have come to be a fan of Mark’s work. From the gifted writer of The Circle Maker and all of its resources, Mark again expounds upon one of the most unsuspecting 2-letif-booktered words of the English Language I-F. There is so much possibility packed within this word and Mark takes us on a journey weaving in characters like Winston Churchill, Helen Keller, and of course a host of biblical characters as well.

As a pastor, I appreciate the accounts Mark shares with the reader about the journey of National Community Church (NCC). I take inspiration from his writing because having started a church with little more than he did, I’m only 5 years into my pastorship, while he’s well past that. God has opened great doors in his ministry and he attributes it all to faith in God and a solid prayer life. This inspires me to keep believing and trusting God for greater things in our church.

I might add here too that Mark states in the book he read over 3000 books before he ever attempted to write one. That’s huge. He mentions also, Teddy Roosevelt, one of his all-time favorite presidents, made habit of reading 500 books a year…and I think 100 is a “challenge!”

With 31 chapters, Mark recommends you read this book, one chapter a day as well. In my quest for wisdom, I will admit, I did this in just a couple of days, but can see the value in taking the time to both read, and journal thoughts and impressions of the book as you go through it.

One of the biggest messages of the book “If” by Mark Batterson is, at the end of our lives, it won’t be the things we did that we regret. We will regret the things we did not do, and wished we had.

Bonus Reading: When I started I anticipated getting criticism for reading books other than the Bible. I committed from the onset that I would attempt to maintain my Bible reading in addition to these 100 books. This week I made good on this BONUS Goal by reading Genesis (started last week) and Exodus. And, since Exodus blended right into Leviticus, I continued and have gotten a good start on it.

I am enjoying this journey overall. It is stretching me. I have a difficult time focusing on such diverse reading materials and going through them thoroughly and thoughtfully, but the more I do it, the more I hunger for it.

A good key if you’re going to do a challenge like this is to find someone to do it with you. I have had a couple people link up with me on this journey wanting to know which books I’m going to read next. If you’re so inclined, feel free to let me know by leaving a comment below, and I’ll let you know which books I’m reading next.

Here’s to 93 more!