Book Review: In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

Book Review:  In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

The Good: 

Mind Blown.  This is not an exaggeration.  Literally, I was saying to myself as I was reading, “I literally have never thought of it that way”.  Batterson presented ground-breaking truths that were unique, but did not twist or alter Scripture.  Instead, he brought a complete change of perspective.

Colossal Burger.  Whenever I’m in a restaurant where I’m not sure what to order, I usually order a cheeseburger with the name “colossal” or “monster” in the title.  Not sure why, because when the waitress places it in front of me, I realize that thing is much bigger than my mouth.  Who cares, right?  Go for it!  That’s how I would describe the theological points of this book.  Deep and thought provoking…almost difficult to digest.  But in the end, you’re like, I’m gonna grab this with two hands and enjoy it.

Legacy Worthy.  You know what is a sign of a good book?  When you underline some lines in the book and write in the margin “Lord, help me teach this to my kids”.  A good book is legacy worthy.  A book where the quotes and principles are ones I want to remember and teach my kids.  Quotes that are worth of family mantras or mottos.  That’s a sign of a good book. 

The Bad:

Not on Same Page.  I’m not sure I am on the same page with one of the descriptions of faith in the book.  It wasn’t heretical, but it focused more on the mind than the heart.  It wasn’t something I’d be comfortable writing, and something I’d have to think over before accepting as truth.

Landing Gear.  The landing of the book was not as smooth as I hoped.  I’m still ready to chase the lion, and inspired like few books can, but the finish was not as inspirational as I would have hoped.

The Grade:  A. 

This came as a recommendation from a family member, saying “best book I’ve ever read”.  Me:  Alexa, order me this book (I don’t one of those machines, but you get what I’m saying).  Want to play it safe, keep your blinders on, and stay in the shallow end…then keep walking.  But…You want to dream?  You want a hard-hitting, rock your comfort-seeking life, mind-blowing book?  Here’s a book for you.  “This simple truth:  God wants you to get where God wants you to go more than you want to get where God wants you to go”.  Think about it.

Favorite Quote:  “Maybe we should stop asking God to get us out of difficult circumstances and start asking Him what He wants us to get out of those difficult circumstances”.

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Need a Book for Mentoring Junior High Boys?

Book Review:  A Young Man’s Guide to Making Right Choices

The Good:

Yep, That Sounds Right.  The book gives you an inside look at the life of a teenage boy.  And as I went through this with one of my students, we both found it to be right on in many ways.  The struggles and decisions were dead on.  The author chose the right subjects to discuss at just the right time.  So, as a result, the conversation flowed naturally from chapter to chapter.

Junior High Gold Mine.  You just don’t find many books like this.  Turning a teenager is not an easy task on anyone.  These boys to men need some help.  And with this book, help is on the way!  It provides easy to read chapters, loads of follow-up questions, and challenging material to help these young men grow to be men of God.

The Bad:

Updating…With any book, it could use some updating.  Technology is going at such a rapid pace, there are some words and vernacular that is somewhat dated.  Even with this book being published only 7 years ago, you may have to add to some of the application to keep it relevant.  But for the most part, the practical suggestions are very applicable and up to date.

The Grade:  A.  It’s not earth shattering or rocket science, but I will say this…It is one of the best resources I have ever come across in mentoring junior high boys.  There is not a ton of material out there, and this is an age that needs discipleship and guidance.  So parents, youth pastors and workers, I would encourage you to meet with a handful of guys and read through this book together.  Spend some time teaching them these important principles.  You may save them from making poor decisions, and help them make godly choices.

 

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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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