Book Review: Everybody Always

Book Review:  Everybody Always by Bob Goff

Also see Bob Goff’s 1st Book, Love Does, review here.

The Good:

Life-changing.  There is a difference between a good book and a book that is life-changing.  A good book is enjoyable, but a life-changing book grips your heart.  A good book you read when you get a chance, a life-changing book you can’t wait to read the next chapter.  A good book you might put on your shelf, a life-changing book is one you want to share with everyone.  This book…it’s life-changing.  Now, I realize I set the bar high, so don’t go into it with it being on par with the Bible.  That’s not my point.  The point is if you capture the message of the book, and apply it…boom, life changed.

Outside of the Box, More Like “What Box?”.  What I love about the author is his whimsical, spontaneous, but fun-loving personality.  You hitch a ride on the story of his life, and you don’t want to get off the crazy.  It is the most fun I have ever had reading a book.  Goff thinks and acts so much differently, it is so refreshing.  He brings so much joy through simply saying yes to loving others.

Master Illustrator.  You feel like you are right there, seeing what Bob is seeing.  With each paragraph, it feels like you are living out the story.  Then as he lands the plane (sometimes literally), Goff hits you between the eyes with a dynamite, punch to the gut quote that are so raw, real, and dead on that you need a minute to let it sink it.  Can I give you a couple quick teaser quotes – “When joy is a habit, love is a reflex”.  “As soon as we have an agenda, it’s not love anymore”.  Man, that last one hurt.  See what I mean?

The Bad:

Be Careful Bob.  He uses a whole lot of “I think Jesus is saying” in the book.  While I am certainly not saying there is heresy here, but the illustrations sometimes are a stretch…but maybe that’s a good thing.  This is a read that will stretch you, how you think, and if you truly are following the model Jesus lived.

The Grade:  A+.  As I shared stories from the book with my wife I got tears in my eyes, for different reasons.  Some of the things Bob would do and say just make you laugh out loud.  But the heart-wrenching stories of lives impacted grip your heart, and you find tears in your eyes.  I love this book.  I love the stories, the raw honest approach, and the willingness to be a world changer by acting like Jesus.  It’s weird to say, but I’ll miss my time each night reading a chapter like a delicious dessert after dinner.  But if I learned anything, it’s my turn to make some stories of loving others like Jesus loves.

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Book Review: How to Walk Into Church

Book Review:  How to Walk Into Church by Tony Payne

The Good:

Real Life.  What I appreciate about this book is the raw honesty.  Payne is able to present real life examples of what church is like, honest question people wrestle with, and provide solutions to those issues.  It’s a refreshing look at church and it’s purpose.

No Excuses.  The book is able to tackle the question “Why go to church” head on.  Rather than just get in the minivan on Sunday and drag your family into church, it’s important to answer that question.  Payne will lead you through the routine and lead you through a path of joy and worship on the other side.

Brief & Creative.  It seems there is a myth out there that a book needs to be long for it to be effective.  Wrong!  This book took me two days to tackle (which for a slow reader like myself, is quite the feat).  In it you find creativity, storytelling, plus Biblical principles and solutions.  Payne does a fantastic job of combining brevity and creativity.

The Bad:

The Ending.  This is nitpicking, but it seemed quite abrupt.  Usually books like this sends you out with a conclusion or summarizing though.  Not this one, it ends with Ephesians 2:10, and send you on your way.

The Grade:  A-.  Whether you are struggling in your present church, looking for a church to join, or even questioning the purpose of church…find answers in this book to help you walk into church with joy and a heart ready to serve.

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How to Plan a Student Mission Conference in 5 Easy Steps

In the past 7 years, we have hosted a student mission conference.  Basically, our goal is to encourage students to be missionaries at their schools, in their neighborhoods, and on their teams/bands/social platforms.  In order to do this, it takes creativity, planning, and organization.  Want to give it a try?  OK, then let’s get started…

  1. There’s No “I” in Team. Broaden your network, and network with others churches for an event like this.  For example, I contacted a missionary of a local parachurch organization and several other churches.  One larger church even offered to host, and it’s been at that church every year since then.
  2. Sharing is Caring. Once the network is established, don’t be afraid to share.  Put your ego aside, and share.  This might mean another youth group’s praise band leads the singing.  You might have other youth pastors be speakers.  Ask another church if they would host.  Be willing to share the responsibilities, and make it a collective effort.
  3. “Creativity is Intelligence Having Fun” (Albert Einstein). If this is going to be an annual event, you will need to get the creative juices flowing.  Each year, we have changed it up.  One year we had a special speaker.  Another year we allowed the students to pick their breakout sessions.  Another year we did a mock evangelism training event, where students received evangelism training and then entered a “cafeteria” to witness to students (youth leader actors).  Students come each year with a new experience.  I believe this has allowed this event to be successful.
  4. Free is Free. One year we had a special speaker, so there was some cost sharing for the honorarium.  But since then, with ministry sharing, each year the event has been free.  We cut the snack, speaker fee, and other costs to allow the event to be free each year.  This has made it easier to invite other churches when the event is free.
  5. Does the Bible Talk About The Gospel? Have trouble coming up with a theme?  Not with this event.  With the Gospel interwoven throughout the Bible, finding a theme has never been an issue.  Each year we take a different aspect of the Gospel and evangelism and allow that theme to drive our teaching portion of the event.

Bonus: For The Detail Oriented People in the Crowd.  We host it on a Wednesday night for 1.5 hours.  Sunday night would be another great option, keeping it in the regular youth program schedule.  Limit the praise time to 2 songs and have your icebreaker ask people are coming in.  This provides for more teaching time.  Keep prayer a focus of the night as well.

There you have it.  If you have any questions on how to plan this event, feel free to comment below.  It has been a real blessing to our youth ministry over the years, and I hope it will inspire you to plan a student mission conference in your ministry sometime soon!

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Book Review: Confident Parenting

Book Review:  Confident Parenting by Jim Burns

The Good:

Let’s Talk.  I’m discovering more and more that these are the types of books I enjoy most.  The book is written in such a way that I feel like we are having a conversation.  He gives examples of home life that makes the content more personable.  All throughout there are real life stories that feel like you are having a conversation with a trusted counselor.  Easy read, and that’s a good thing.

Plan Ahead.  What’s your plan for your kids?  Do you a have a discipleship plan?  What type of spiritual goals do you have for your kids?  Yeah, exactly.  If you answered “uh”, you might want to give this book a try.  Great practical advice for future and intentional planning for your kids.

Ironic Title.  It’s ironic a book called “Confident Parenting” could make me a little less confident.  That is, in the sense that I have a long way to go.  There is much to work on.  But the confidence comes from the advice, the hope of a future, and practical ways to reach your goals.

The Bad:

Theology Light.  With the exception of a couple of chapters, it was light on theology.  It has a great Biblical foundation.  And you know, I don’t think the intent was to dive into a theological discussion on parenting.  Rather, it presented Biblical points and dove into practical ways to carry out God’s instructions.  And the book accomplished this goal masterfully.

The Grade:  B+.  Don’t have time to read a parenting book, because you know, you’re a full-time parent just hanging on?  This would be a great book to just read a few pages in between karate, the grocery store, and laundry.  Looking for a less busy, grace-filled, positive, and encouraging home?  Then you might want to give this book a try.

 

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I Know What I Did Last Summer

Check out my latest article on the Youth Specialties Blog – 5 Things I’m Glad I Did Last Summer!

Click On Pic Below!

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Book Review: Rejoicing in Christ

Book Review:  Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves

The Good:

Only Scratching the Surface.  As we reviewed this book as board members, one deacon in our meeting said this book serves as a reminder that we “have only scratched the surface.  I think we often have too little of a view of Jesus”.  Wow!  And this book will do that to you.  Get ready, because Reeves will make you realize how little you know about your Savior.  But don’t let it get you down, allow this read to inspire you to get to know Jesus better.

Take a Breather.  This is some heavy stuff.  You may need to put the book down, take a breather, and digest what you just read.  You feel like you just ate a whole double cheeseburger in one bite (I shouldn’t be writing before I eat my lunch), when you should just be dipping that burger in ketchup and taking one bite at a time.  Did I mention I’m hungry?

You Talkin’ to Me?  Although there is great depth, what I appreciate most about the book is the conversational tone.  It is as if I am sitting down with the author and talking about Jesus.  And Reeves does a masterful job at taking theological truths that have always been there, and drawing out incredible insight about Christ.  I enjoyed sitting on the front porch having a talk with the author, so to speak.

The Bad:

Heavy Lifting.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, but more a warning.  You will be challenged in your knowledge and relationship with Jesus.  OK, so that’s not bad at all.

The Grade:  A.  A tremendous read that provides mind-blowing insight into the person of Jesus Christ.  The book takes you on turns you weren’t expecting but always ends the journey in the same place, where you sit in wonder and honor of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Book Review: The Master Plan of Evangelism

Book Review:  The Master Plan of Evangelism by Dr. Robert E. Coleman

The Good:

Unique.  Wasn’t sure what to find when I opened this book.  Honestly, I knew little about the author or the book.  What I found was a unique approach to evangelism.  Usually you will find a method like ABC or a Romans Road rendition.  Instead, it tracks the steps of Jesus with His disciples and outlines the principles of evangelism that followed the sandals of our Savior.  Unique approach, but one that made this a worthy read.

Bible. Bible. Bible.  This man knows his Bible or his concordance needs a new binding from all the use.  From page to page, the Bible is used to back up his principles.  When you are talking about how to share something so delicate and important as evangelism, you better handle the Bible with care and abundance.

The Bad:

Practicality.  The question becomes when you write a book about following the footsteps of Jesus, can you practically pull of this type of mentoring, discipling, and evangelism?  Even the author would answer negatively to this question.  But just because we fall short of Christ, doesn’t mean we do not try.  However, there is a sense of, how am I going to do this like Christ.  It begs the question, why did he leave this task to someone like you and me?  Don’t let this part discourage you, but be a goal to continue to reach for.

The Grade:  B.  There were parts of this book I absolutely loved.  The mentoring side of discipleship and the call to “make disciples” was absolutely dynamite.  The plane took off with tremendous speed and there were times it coasted in the air, but the landing made it work the trip.  Enjoy this unique look at evangelism.

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Book Review: What is the Gospel

Book Review:  What is the Gospel?  by Greg Gilbert

The Good:

Let’s Gooooo.  A common joke I have with the teens of our church, go where?  But as one would say during an intense moment of the game, Let’s Goooo!  And there were times in this book, especially the closing chapters, where you are motivated to share the topic of this book.  The Gospel is on your lips and ready to be shared.

Love Increase.  You not only gain knowledge and insight about the Gospel, but it also allows the reader to gain in their love and appreciation of the Gospel, and especially with the Savior.  I can honestly say I love my Savior more after reading this book.

Finally, clarity.  You know our church culture has gone a little crazy with the use of Gospel.  Gospel living, gospel exercise, gospel pancakes (OK, maybe not that last one…maybe).  Gilbert does a masterful job of providing concise, clear doctrine of the Gospel.  Nothing added, nothing deleted in his explanation of this Biblical-based definition of the Gospel.  And the reader will certainly appreciate the clarity and conciseness of this small book.

The Bad:

Little Dog Dogmatic.  We are talking a like a teacup size dog-matic problem here.  There were small instances where the author may have gone a little too far in his own preferences and beliefs on what was truth.  However, what I may have questioned caused me to appreciate two things.  First, it spurred me to research and ask more questions on topics like “the kingdom”.  Second, I love his passion and confidence in his beliefs.  That confidence spilled over into vital doctrines of the Gospel that were needed for the reader.  This boldness allowed him to gain traction in other areas of the book where the Gospel needed clarity and boundaries.

The Grade:  A.  Has been on my reading list for some time, and so glad I had a chance to finish.  It was like a modern Gospel primer.  Sure, that’s lofty praise, but I appreciated how it clearly presented the Gospel, disputed the false claims, and brought you back to the core of the Gospel message.  I walked away encouraged, confident, and motivated.  None many books can accomplish such a feat.

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6 Lessons Parenting Has Taught Me

I’ve reached a milestone in my life.  One decade of parenting.  It would probably take me that long to write all the lessons I have learned over the years.  So instead, I’d like to list a few things parenting has taught me, and more importantly how it has changed me.

Patience.  Here’s a rule of thumb.  When you want your kids to move quickly – cleaning up, rushing to the car in the rain, or walking quickly past the toy aisle…they are in slow motion.  When you have literally an ounce of energy left, they could fill water towers with their energy.  What have I learned through this?  Patience.  (Still learning this by the way).  I have to be patient with their slow pace, learning how to pick up toys, and their misunderstanding of why they can’t do things.  Parenting is a marathon, and if you expect them to be competent, tax-paying, godly, self-sufficient people after they grow out of diapers, buckle up and take a drink from the patient drinking fountain.

Flexibility.  All the kids dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair done, and looking very well put together.  You are headed out and we grab the baby to put into the car seat.  One problem.  Poop.  Poop.  Is.  Everywhere.  You thought you were going to be early out the door…now your plans aren’t the only things you have to change.  Kids get hurt, sick, tired, soiled…you have to be flexible.  Roll with the punches.  As a very structured, plan ahead, day-timers are fun type of guy.  This has been a challenge, but also a valuable lesson.

Confrontation.  Multiple children are screaming.  Another yells “I’m going to hit you”.  Loud noises, like someone is throwing something, is also occurring.  You just sat down for the first time all day.  You didn’t even have a chance to exhale.  So do you let it play out?  You may not believe in evolution, but you are really tempted to see if this “survival of the fittest” thing has any merit.  Oh, you’re so tempted.  But no, parenting has taught me you have to get up and confront the assailant and the defendant.  Listen to the witnesses, plea bargains, and review the evidence…and then make a verdict.  People rise when judges enter the room, you have to duck from not getting hit with a whiffle bat.  Judges also get to retire to their chambers for decision-making and a quiet moment, you have to wait till midnight for that.  So, what do you do?  You confront, correct, and discipline.  Why, because you love these kids.

Giving.  You’ve read the graphic.  Your kid when they are 18 will have cost you $__________.  It’s like when you buy a house, don’t look at that last page that includes all the interest.  Don’t do it.  And with kids, don’t ever think about how much they are going to cost.  Instead, think about how much love you can give them.  My wife and I have rarely worried about how God would provide for our children over these last 10 years.  He has always been faithful.  Sure, they will get more expensive in the coming years, but you can’t live life seeing children as dollar signs.  Give love to them, be wise with your money, but be willing to give too.  And giving doesn’t stop with your money, your kids need you to give them time, attention, and all the love you can possibly share.

Unselfishness.  Speaking of giving time.  Listen, there will be times when the only “me time” you get is when you go the bathroom (and even then do not expect privacy) or that sliver of time before the last child falls asleep and you pass out.  So if you go into parenting needing a lot of time to yourself, you’re in the wrong business.  Let me tell you, parenting taught me how selfish I was.  I still fight selfishness, but having little ones that need me to play with them, teach them, and show them God-moments each day…I can see the value of being unselfish.  I’m still learning this lesson every day, but my kids have helped me be more selfless.

Perspective.  Ever heard the phrase “don’t cry over spilled milk”.  My mother-in-law helped teach me this principle.  There is a difference between an accident and a deliberate act of treason by your kids.  You get me?  Yesterday one of my kids dropped a big glass bowl, and I grabbed the vacuum, my wife grabbed the broom.  Perspective.  It was an accident.  We cleaned it up, and moved on.  I’ve gone to bed with stickers or little hair rubber band stuck to my feet.  Every day I have to look in my shirt for hair that my little girls have shared with my clothes in our laundry.  I’ve stepped in toothpaste, slobbered on, and had to wipe boogers with my hand.  Hey man, perspective.  One day, I won’t have this.  And I’ll miss it.  I’ll miss the noise, the craziness, the boogers, the spilled drinks, the cheese sticks I find under our couch that have been sitting there for months (they get hard as a rock!).  I’ll miss it.  So it’s taught me perspective (that’s certainly not always perfect), but it is much healthier than it was 10 years ago.

I have a long ways to go.  I’m just in my first decade, and “teenage-dom” is around the corner.  I’m sure I’ll learn a whole new set of lessons then.  But until then, I’m thankful for the lessons God has taught me through parenting.  It is a humbling, joyful, frustrating, tiring, loving, and growing experience all rolled up in one.  And I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

 

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