Slow Down and Enjoy Life!

June 14, 2017 at 9:46 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Prayer | 1 Comment

I’ve often said that as Americans we are way too busy.  It only seems to get worse as time goes on.  Each time saving device we add to our collection only serves to make us busier, as we try to accomplish more and more.  I read the following today, and thought it was worth the time to share.  It’s  from an interview with Jennie Allen, author of Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard

I think most of us are running on this treadmill that we don’t even realize is happening, we don’t even realize it’s turned on.

We’re just running every day.  I think we notice it most when we’re still, but the problem is even when we’re still, we have a phone pinging us or even just distracting us and causing us to check out rather than self-diagnose or self analyze what’s happening.

.  .  .  even when I was alone with God or just alone, I was performing and executing things that I needed to get done.  So because my job is largely talking about God and teaching and writing, whenever I was alone with God I was getting the next thing ready that I was going to deliver rather than actually just enjoying his presence.

So I think what’s happened is everything has become a performance or something to achieve rather than something to enjoy.  .  .  .  I feel like as Americans and as young people today that we’re all trying to prove ourselves and we’re exhausted and we’re actually not enjoying the best parts of life.

The entire article can be read here.

Slow down!  Take some time to enjoy God and family.  It’s healthy physically, mentally and spiritually!

Great Biographies

June 5, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Grace and Faith, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Sunday I encouraged our congregation to increase their faith by reading biographies of men and women God has used in mighty ways, and then I mentioned a few that have had an impact on me.  I was asked to repeat that list.  So here are the ones I mentioned Sunday.

You can read my post from a few years ago called “Ten Influential Books” here.  It lists most of these with a few comments about them.

Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot is the story of Jim Elliot and four other men who were martyred taking the gospel to a tribe in South America.  George Muller, Man of Faith and Miracles by Basil Miller is the story of a man who built a huge orphanage on nothing but trust in God.  I’ve read three biographies of William Tyndale, who is my hero in Church history.  The best was the longest one by David Daniell.  Finally, I have recently read Saving My Assassin by Virginia Prodan, a powerful story of one woman’s life in communist Romania.

Happy reading.

A Pastor’s Reminder

May 30, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Ministry | Leave a comment

I am quickly reading through a book one of our women asked me to look at, because they want to use it for the Ladies Bible Study next fall.  As a pastor, this paragraph jumped out as a good reminder not only for the listeners, but for the speaker as well:

When you hear a teacher, a pastor or a speaker utter a statement that rings so true it can only be God, then believe me, it can only be God.  No man or woman is wise enough, educated enough, or clever enough to understand and communicate the deep truths of God’s Word on his or her own.  It’s entirely a work of the Holy Spirit, and all the applause, all the praise must go to him.   –Liz Curtis Higgs in The Women of Christmas  (emphasis hers)

May God get all the praise and glory when he speaks through any of us, his unworthy creatures!

Shack Movie

February 27, 2017 at 11:07 am | Posted in Books and Movies | 1 Comment

Since a movie based on the popular novel The Shack is being released, it’s probably time to remind readers that I posted a book review on The Shack when it was so popular.  Read not only the review but also the follow up post as well.

Of course when movie makers get a hold of a text, we never know what might become of it. The movie may have significantly more or less problems than the book.  As of this writing, I haven’t seen it, and I haven’t read any reviews of it

My book review is here

The second follow up post is here

Best Books of 2016

January 17, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Books and Movies | Leave a comment

Each year I try  to write an article about the best books I’ve read in the previous year.  The biggest chunk of my reading in 2016 was novels, and I discovered some authors these past twelve months that I have enjoyed and want to read again.

First, I need to mention Kristy Cambron.  I read her first book The Butterfly and the Violin early last year, and it was a great book.  I had to immediately check out the sequel A Sparrow in Terezin, and it was just as good.  These two novels give readers a different picture of the cruelty of the Nazi concentration camps than they’ve probably seen before — how camp officers used talented prisoners for entertainment purposes.  A sad but revealing side of history presented through characters with incredible strength.  Already this year, I have read Cambron’s newest book, The Ringmaster’s Wife, an historical novel about the wife of John Ringling.  With this week’s news that the Ringling Brothers’ Circus is shutting down forever, you might find this a fascinating read.  I will watch for more from this author.

Second, I have discovered Michael Neale.  His name has been known in Christian music, but his first novel is a masterpiece of Christian allegory. The surface story of The River is a young man named Gabriel Clarke who is transformed from a boy afraid of water because of an awful experience into a white water adventure guide.  In itself it is a captivating story.  But it’s the metaphorical meaning about spiritual life that makes the story especially good.  After reading it myself, I set it aside to read aloud to my family over Christmas break.  It was even better the second time through.  I can’t say much more without giving too much away, just get it and read it.  I am looking forward to the sequel Into the Canyon.

Finally, I have to mention Randy Alcorn.  His novel Safely Home is not just the best book I read in 2016 (nonfiction included), it has been added to my life’s most influential books list.  I have read some of Alcorn’s nonfiction works, but this was the first novel I’ve read.  You can read my review here.

Safely Home: An Awesome Book!

July 20, 2016 at 9:43 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, It's All About God | Leave a comment

My family spent part of last week camping in the mountains where I had time to do some fun reading.  I read the best novel I have read in years, probably one of the best ever.  It was Randy Alcorn’s Safely HomeI had read Alcorn’s theology of Heaven, which I reviewed in this blog, but had never read his novels.  I will be sure to read more of them now.  I hesitate to use the word awesome for much, but this book was awesome!  I may have to add it to my list of most influential books ever read; time will tell.

Safely Home tells the story of two college roommates who reconnected twenty years after they graduated from college and had lost touch.  One was a successful business executive in America, the other a locksmith’s assistant and house church leader in China.

Alcorn researched the book carefully, and though it is fiction, he claims the statistics reported are true as are many of the stories out of China; those that are not actual stories are in line with things that do happen in China.  Though the characters are fictional, they ring true to life, so much so, I got caught up in the book as though it were a real story.  The way they learn from each other is a great education for the reader.

The presentation of the persecuted church in contrast with American materialism is absolutely fascinating and convicting.  It caused me to question a lot of my assumptions about the world-wide church, about persecution, and about American church values.

I would give you some great quotes from the book, except I got caught up in the story and didn’t bother to write anything down,  Besides I was so impressed with it, the others in my family hijacked the book as soon as I was done so they could read it too!

All proceeds from the sale of the book go to ministries supporting the persecuted church around the world, so buy a copy and read it.

Here is a link to a site that has 14 quotes from the book.  My favorite from this page is “If you are looking for a religion centered around yourself, Ben, I must agree that Christianity is a poor choice.”

Preach It by Stuart Briscoe

June 22, 2016 at 11:26 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Ministry | Leave a comment

I had decided at one time that I should read a preaching book at least every two years, but haven’t read any for quite some time.  After hearing Stuart and Jill Briscoe speak at our spring pastors’ and wives’ get-a-way, I picked up his book Preach It.  It has some great thoughts, some good humor, and some practical suggestions.  The best parts, however, are more about the preacher’s attitude than methodology.  And I thought I would share some of those here.

I spent a miserable few weeks second-guessing my decision to leave banking and concentrate on ministry.  One day I had a searing, troubling thought.  I wondered if I would ever be content if I could never preach again.  The thought persisted and eventually became framed in a question that seemed to come from the Lord himself: “Stuart Briscoe, what do you love most — preaching about me or me?”  It was a question I had trouble addressing, because I knew it would expose the motives behind my preaching, and I didn’t like what I was discovering about myself.  There was a certain excitement about preaching, a sense of being able to do something and do it reasonably well.  It was thrilling to be in demand.  . . .  A preacher’s motives matter more than a preacher’s methods.  If what is going on in a preacher’s heart is not right, what is coming out of his mouth will be all wrong.  (pages 77-78)

They are comfortable with their calling because they know it is of God and not of themselves.   They did not choose to preach.  They know that for reasons known only to God they were chosen to preach.  . . .  These preachers are comfortable with being gifted because the very term gift presupposes a giver.  They know that the Spirit distributes the gifts as he chooses, and he apparently chose them.  They have long since come to terms with the fact that this does not make them superior because of their highly visible gifting anymore than noses are superior to hearts because of their prominence.  . . .  They know that they cannot save a single soul, open a solitary blind eye, or turn anyone from darkness to light or from the power of Satan to God.  But they also know that God can and still does and that he uses people just like them.  . . .  They are excruciatingly aware of their inadequacy  . . .  No one need remind them of their unworthiness  . . .  [God] specializes in using such people because they are the only kind available.  (pages 172-173)

Maybe printing it here will help remind at least one other preacher of the amazing, overwhelming, yet humbling task we’ve been given.  May God be glorified in it.

Finally, on a lighter note, Briscoe quotes John Stott as saying that most preachers are “six days invisible and one day incomprehensible!”  (page 140)  I hope that doesn’t describe me!

Narnia and the Election

February 27, 2016 at 10:13 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Very rarely do I comment on politics in this blog.  The subtitle is “A Teaching Pastor’s Devotional and Theological Thoughts,” and I try to keep it to that.  However, occasionally the two areas overlap, and occasionally I can’t refrain.  As a big fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, this article caught my attention.  I find I totally agree with the author.  Its called Nikabrik’s Candidate.  If you’ve read or seen Prince Caspian, then you will know the story behind the article.


An added note from this morning’s prayer time.  It’s a prayer for many candidates on both sides of the aisle.

There they are, bellowing with their mouths with swords in their lips —
for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”
But you, O LORD, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision.
O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.
My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.
For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride.
For the cursing and lies that they utter, consume them in wrath;
consume them till they are no more,
that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth.
Selected verses from Psalm 59 (ESV)

Best Books of 2015

February 6, 2016 at 8:28 pm | Posted in Books and Movies | Leave a comment

I usually take time in January to rethink the best books I’d read the year before.  I’m late this year, but I thought some readers might still appreciate it.

My fiction readings included a few more Bess Crawford novels by Charles Todd, always clean and entertaining; three Davis Bunn novels, I’d never read him before but enjoyed all of them; a reread of Ted Dekker’s Blink, my favorite of the Dekker books I’ve read; and the Accidental Empress by Alison Pataki, interesting but not near as good as her first book, The Traitor’s wife, which was on my best of the year list for 2014.

I also read two of Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone books.  I’d read The Columbus Affair before and decided to try some more of Berry’s action tails.  So far they’ve all been enjoyable, but The Lincoln Myth surpassed them all; it was one of best novels of the year.  The book proposes a secret agreement between Abraham Lincoln and Brigham Young.  A fascinating bit of history.  Berry rewrites some history, but unlike a Dan Brown, Berry tell his readers at the end what he discovered in his studies as true and what he invented for fiction sake.

The most fascinating novel, however, may have been Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie.  The race to get the Bible printed before anyone found out about the invention and before money and supplies ran out was a fun adventure, especially for this reader who loves the history and stories of the Reformation.  I’ve often taught that the printing press was the greatest invention of history, but the politics and business decisions surrounding it are also very intriguing.  Sometimes Christie is blunt about the depraved thinking of the characters, but nothing was too explicit or unreal.

The best Christian book by far had to be John Stott’s The Cross of Christ, which I reviewed in this blog.  Stott not only explains what the Bible teaches about the cross, he also explains why it has to be that way.  The cross is the only possible answer to God’s perfect justice and his unfailing love.

Happy reading in 2016!

Water and Stress

October 24, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Swimming | Leave a comment

I’ve read bits and pieces of a book I picked up at the library recently.  It was hard to read the entire thing because the author is way too wordy and more technical than I expected from the book’s description.  I picked the book up just because the subtitle caught my attention.  As a lifelong swimmer, one who loves being in the water, I couldn’t pass it up.  The book is Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols, but the subtitle is “The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do.”

Being around water is a stress relief, and it’s no wonder people like to go to the ocean, the beach, the riverside or the lake for a vacation.  I’ve always thought of the water as stress relief; to me it’s swimming; to my wife it’s the sound of a babbling brook.

The following quote is a great one on stress that I had to include here.  The author’s prescription for lessening stress is water.  I partly agree.  I would say Sabbath is the real answer, the answer God gave centuries ago but we tend to ignore, and water can be a big part of Sabbath.

Too many of us live overwhelmed—suffocated by work, personal conflicts, the intrusion of technology and media.  Trying to do everything, we end up stressed about almost anything.  We check our voice mail at midnight, our e-mail at dawn, and spend the time in between bouncing from website to website, viral video to viral video.  Perpetually exhausted, we make bad decisions at work, at home, on the playing field, and behind the wheel.  We get flabby because we decide we don’t have the time to take care of ourselves, a decision ratified by the fact that those “extra” hours are filled with e-mailing, doing reports, attending meetings, updating systems to stay current, repairing what’s broken.  We’re constantly trying to quit one habit just to start another.  We say the wrong things to people we love, and love the wrong things because expediency and proximity make it easier to embrace what’s passing right in front of us.  We make excuses about making excuses, but we still can’t seem to stop the avalanche.  All of this has a significant economic cost as “stress and its related comorbid diseases are responsible for a large proportion of disability worldwide.” (p22f)

Enough said; I’m going for a swim.

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