Tag Archives: Francis Chan

Dreams Do Come True – My 1st Book Goes On Sale Today!

The cursor blinked on the dark screen of that old computer.  My dad gave me his old IBM computer that weighed more than my bedroom furniture, but that was where the dream began.  I began to journal, write about my day, and watch the green print float words across the screen.  I didn’t know how to type.  Goodness, I barely knew how to spell.  But I did know I loved to write.

where-it-all-beganFast-forward to my college years.  I found a black leather-bound book, dove into the book of Psalms, and went to work.  Each night, I would write a devotional for myself with a summary statement at the end.  I don’t know if it was “senioritis”, or I just ran out of time…but I graduated and I never reached the end of Psalms.  That black leather book left incomplete, was thrown in a pile of my old academic records and free movie posters that the local theater would give me and my buddies every Tuesday.

Days become months, months become years, and time continued to tick on by.  I go on to seminary, marry the love of my life, and our family grows to four with our 2nd daughter born.  Then, as I was cleaning my office, I stumbled upon that black book.  I perused the pages realizing what a treasure I had just stuffed in my files.  I committed to finishing the Psalms, and began my quest to become an author.

Little did I know how difficult that next journey would be.  Rejection after rejection from publishing companies, I began to lose hope.  I mean, how could I blame them.  My name wasn’t Francis Chan or John Piper…to publishers, it was Jeff Who.  Although I was hesitant, I researched my options with self-publishing.  It was a little overwhelming, so I phoned an old friend.  Well, at that time, I don’t know if friend was the right word.  On the other end of the phone was my high school English teacher.  I called him Mr. P, mostly because I thought he closely resembled Mr. C on Happy Days.  In High School, I rarely paid attention, talked during class, and often showed little respect.  But, when Mr. P got a call from me about my dream of becoming an author, he didn’t hesitate to take me to lunch, pay for my meal, and answer every question I had.  He paid attention to me, talked me into reviving my dream, and a respectful friendship was born.

After months of editing and brainstorming, we were about a quarter of the way through the book.  Then, tragedy hit.  Mr. P passed away in his sleep.  My mentor, my new friend, my help in this journey went to be with his Savior.

front-coverNow what do I do?  I turned to another mentor, an established youth ministry author, who took an interest in my dream.  He connected me with a publishing company called Overboard Ministries.  And, as they say, the rest is history.  After long nights of editing for over a year, deliberation of titles and book cover designs…the day is finally here.

Dear Lord, I don’t feel like I deserve this dream to come true.  Remembering the days in front of that dark screen in my room, journaling my day that consisted mostly of backyard football and NHL 94 battles on the Sega Genesis with my brother to the late nights in an off campus house hoping these words would bless someone, someday.  To the days where it seemed like this dream was all but lost, which happened on more than one occasion.  My name is finally on the front of that book.  God, I give you this book.  Use it to help teens who are not consistently having a quiet time with the Lord yet.  Use it to bless the frustrated college student who feels alone, disappointed, and abandoned to find comfort, encouragement, and fulfillment in the Bible.  Use it to guide that 7th grader who feels lost in the new world of adolescence, and needs to discover the guiding hand of God’s Word.

You see, in the end, this dream became bigger than me.  The dream becomes a reality when I am able to hand this book to a teenager or young adult and watch them fall in love with God’s Word.  Now, that’s when my dreams truly come true.

Visit:  http://www.bottomlinedevotional.com to learn more about the book and how you can order a copy.

 

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Youth Curriculum Review Series – 2015 Edition (cont.)

In the final installment of the Youth Curriculum Review of 2015, let’s take a look at some small group curriculum.

41efF+SLSLL._SX404_BO1,204,203,200_Creative Bible Lessons in Job by Doug Ranck.  Let me just say this.  I have searched and used many youth curriculum, and one of the curricula that I often recommend is the Creative Bible Lessons.  Here’s what you get with this curriculum.  A starter or icebreaker for the lesson that often comes with multiple options with minimal setup but maximum effectiveness.  Then the lesson is dynamic, easy to teach, good foundation of Scripture, and a good challenge.  In the end, there are discussion questions and worksheets that work very well in the small group setting.

66475Serving Like Jesus by Doug Fields & Brett Eastman.  This was a good fit for small group, but on a heavier teaching night, it would not work as well.  The teaching material is limited and often required some additional work.  However, the discussion questions and outlined series were phenomenal.  I actually added to the series by inviting people in the church who were serving like Jesus to interview them.  That added to the material.  The highlight of this curriculum was definitely the plethora of interaction and discussion questions.  So if you struggle in the teaching side, this might not be best series.  But in a small group setting with shorter teaching and more discussion, this is perfect.

indexSurrender by Francis Chan.  Disclaimer to begin:  I’m a huge Francis Chan.  I’ve read every book he has written and Crazy Love happens to be in my top 5 books of all time.  That being said, this series is a small group goldmine for many reasons.  It provides a DVD series to break up your teaching.  The subject matters are not fluff, but are very challenging, relevant, and hold the interest well.  The lesson is very well put together and Biblically based.  The discussion questions provided allow the small groups to flourish and have great follow-up.  The only down side is it only 4 weeks.  Other than that, it is well worth using for a “break” series during the year, to finish the year, or even in a retreat setting.

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Review: Follow Me

Book Review:  Follow Me by David Plattfollow-me

The Good:

Don’t Skip the Intro. Maybe it is a habit from your high school days of skipping the introduction of your book report book, so you could read the entire book by the next day…but I would suggest to break that habit with this book. Francis Chan provides a powerful testimony in this introduction that you do not want to miss.

Storyteller Extraordinaire. This dude can tell a story. One of the best storytellers I have read. He takes you into the story and you do not want to leave. Using personal stories and illustrations, these stories are powerful enough to make this book come alive.

Preach it! You can tell Platt is a preacher. His one-liners throughout the book give you chuckles and also elbows to your sides. Also, there were times where you can almost hear the pulpit being thumped (in a positive way) as he brings it! Chapter 7 is an example where you want to scream “you tell ‘em” or “amen”.

The Bad:

He, not he. You may think this is nitpicking, but not for me. When referencing the Creator God, you must capitalize the pronouns referring to Him. See how I just did it there. In this book, grammatically correct or not, it needs to be done.

The Grade: A. Seriously, you will love Jesus more after reading this book. It is some powerful and motivating material. If you are not motivated to share Jesus with others more after reading this book, you either need to check your spiritual hearth, or check your physical pulse! I strongly recommend this book to rejuvenate your love for the Gospel and your desire to share it with others.

Tagged , , , ,

Book Review: Multiply by Francis Chan

Book Review: Multiply by Francis Chan

The Good:31Tm11DrPAL

Reading and Doing. With the application questions at the end of each completed thought, the book promotes life change. It allows the reader to interact with the material for not only greater understanding, but also provides an introspective look at their personal life.

Challenging. Reading God’s Word, sharing the Gospel, and discipleship are not optional in the life of a believer. Chan does an incredible job of challenging the reader, without disgracing or manipulating Scripture. The Bible interweaves throughout its pages effectively and reaches the heart of the reader.

Great for New Believer. For a new believer, young believer, or one lacking in Biblical knowledge, this book would be most beneficial. Chan provides an easy-to-understand Bible survey where a beginner believer could follow along, but still provides depth for any reader. It provides the reader with a great ride from Genesis to Revelation, taking necessary stops to allow for understanding and clarity.

Promotes the Church. As a pastor, I appreciated the elevation of the church in the latter part of the book. As the Bride of Christ, the church should be treated such, and this book does a masterful job of describing the early church and challenges the present church to step up.

The Bad:

Not What I Expected. Honestly, I was expecting a book on discipleship and multiplication of the church through making disciples. Little did I know that this book would primarily be a Bible survey. Although it was presented very well, it caught me off guard, and I walked away a little disappointed. So there’s your spoiler, but will help you enjoy the read more than I did.

The Grade: B

As I stated before, if I knew what this book was all about, I may have graded it higher. However, expecting more training on discipleship, I was a little disappointed. However, the presentation of the Bible, and weaving in and out of God’s Word made for an interesting, enlightening, and challenging read. Again, if you are a new believer and want a better understanding of the first page to the last of your Bible, this book is a strong suggestion for you. Otherwise, it was good review, with enough depth that you will still learn.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Book Review: “You and Me Forever” by Francis & Lisa Chan

Book Review: You and Me Forever, by Francis & Lisa ChanB1IKi3KCAAARclh.jpg large

The Good:

When We Gonna Talk About Marriage. This book is heavily focused on the reader’s relationship with God. And why not? This is the relationship that will last into eternity, not your marriage relationship. So the journey Chan takes you is bigger than just man and wife, and that is what makes this book unique and powerful.

Radical Call to Marriage. This is no ordinary marriage book, it is radical. It is a call to live your marriage entirely different. What makes it so credible, is the author and his wife lived what was written in this book. Otherwise, it would be a “you should” book. Instead, it is a “we did, and look what happened” book.

Ready for a Challenge? If you don’t want to be challenged, then don’t read this book. If you do…buckle up! The book is full of challenging thoughts and one-liners that smack you around.   The chapter on mission specifically will provide a great challenge.

Parenting Chapter. The parenting chapter alone is worth the price of admission. If you don’t have the time to read everything, read that chapter, and then if you can go back to the beginning and dive in. It is worth the swim.

The Bad:

Came for a Hamburger, and Got a Steak. Listen, if you open this book expecting a book full of relationship advice, you’re barking up the wrong tree. So don’t waste your time here. This book goes on a much deeper spiritual level and forces you to reevaluate your marriage. This is the closest thing I can come up with in terms of bad.

The Grade: A

I’m a little bias, sure. Crazy Love was the one of the first books that produced in me spiritual life change, outside of the Bible. Before that, reading was the furthest thing from my desk or leisure activity. When I realized I could read, and my life habits and disciplines could change as a result, I was sold. And it just happened to be Crazy Love was the first book I experienced that life change.

That being said, this book provides a unique look on marriage. It goes outside the girls are from Pluto, boys are from Saturn type relationship advice. It goes much deeper. For those that have a relationship with God and are married, this book provides a way for those two relationships to not only co-exist, but to thrive and grow into the relationships that are God-designed…how they are supposed to be.

Want more than just marital advice? Want to live life as a couple with a mission that is directed by God and has eternal effects? Want more than just a happy marriage? Pick up this book.

Tagged , , , , , ,

10 Keys to a Successful Student Mission Trip

Something you will hear me say often in reference to short-term mission trips (Barna research has my back on this one), “There is no lessonGPS logo 2013 I can teach or event I can plan that can do what a short-term mission trip can do”.  What I mean by that is this, the spiritual life change, the comfort zone breakdown, and the transformation that I consistently see result from these trips…it is hard to reproduce, and it certainly should not be replaced in our youth ministries.

Over the years, God has given me the blessing of being able to lead trips to inner-cities (Chicago/New York), overseas (Barcelona, Spain & Ireland as a student), and more local trips like the mountains of Kentucky and the campgrounds of Scioto Hills.   These are some lessons I learned along the way:

  1. Preparation is Key.  What if a doctor never studied anatomy…what if a bungee jump operator didn’t learn to tie a knot…what if a hairdresser never went to cosmetology school….the answer, they would cause a lot of damage!  And same with mission trips.  If you don’t prepare well in advance, you may just cause more damage than good.
  2. Give Expectations Up Front.  This isn’t a come to the meetings when you feel like it experience.  Each potential team member goes through an interview & application process.  As part of the interview, the applicant is given, in detail, all the expectations of the trip, from behavior to training requirements and assignments.
  3. Train Them.  Soon, I will need to write a detailed list of the mission training, but here are some highlights:  read a book together (ex. Crazy Love, Do Hard Things), unity training (see #5), mission training (curriculum like Prepare.Go.Live), Personal Evangelism Training, Guest Speaker with Professional Training, Trip Presentation to Church, Group Practices (Drama, Crafts, etc.), and accountability (see #4) to name a few.
  4. Keep Them Accountable.  They know the expectations (see #2), so keep them accountable.  Each time we meet for training, the team is asked about their church attendance, daily time with God, homework, and team responsibilities.  Sure, they miss every once in a while, but if it happens twice in a row, the student in warned, and extra assignments follow.  If it continues, a meeting the parents and possible dismissal from the team.  Behavior can also be a means of dismissal as well.
  5. Work on Unity Early.  You may thing unity exercises are silly, but you will thank yourself later if you start them early and often.  The transformation I saw from the first time we did the exercises to the last day, it honestly gave me goose bumps to see the difference.  It was because we worked at it.
  6. Open Their Gifts.  Something we do during training is a spiritual gift inventory and assessment.  Following that, I give each student responsibilities based on their gifts.  Ranging from team encourager to teaching team, each team is given responsibilities, but because their jobs are connected to their spiritual gifts, it allows them to have a better chance of success, and less chance of frustration.
  7. Raise the Ante.  One year I walked out on a limb and had students be in charge of certain groups and given leader responsibilities, such as drama leader or music leader.  Sure, I gave them guidance in the process, but I raised the bar in the preparation process, and boy did it pay off!  I saw some amazing leadership growth in those students.
  8. Never Underestimate a Teenager.  I can remember a shy 9th grader coming into my youth group.  He usually sat quietly during events & lessons, saying very little.  Well, as the years went by he began to grow, but still had a quiet, shy nature.  During his senior year, he signed up for the mission trip to Spain.  He was the sound/media leader, which fit his personality.  But, I felt he needed more, so I gave him the task of learning a magic trick for the park presentation.  That same shy, quiet 9th grader, I got to see him do a magic trick in front of hundreds of people, and use that trick to share the Gospel.  NEVER underestimate a teenager…give them opportunities, and push them to new heights in their spiritual lives!
  9. Can I Get a Testimony?  Every year we do a wrap up service for the mission trip for our church.  It’s great, because many in the church gave towards the trip and were praying faithfully (Prayer cards with a team picture are a wonderful idea), and they want to hear all about the trip.  In the past I have asked if anyone would like to share their testimony of what God taught them.  This year, I decided to have every member of the team, including leaders, give their testimony.  Man was that powerful!  Sure, there were some that were extremely terrified, but the audience, especially parents, was extremely grateful.  (Next week’s blog – How to Plan a Mission Trip Testimony Service)
  10. Life Transformation.  As I mentioned in the intro, there has not been a trip that has gone by that I have not seen at least one student’s spiritual life dramatically change as a result of the trip.  There has been dramatic change (not just a mountain experience either) that I have seen in students.  Students taking their summers to go back to the mission field we went to on the summer before or students saying they want to work at the mission we served at after college graduation.  What a blessing to see lives changed!  That makes the effort that goes into #1-9 worth it.

Special thanks to my youth pastor growing up who taught me many of these lessons early, so I didn’t have to learn the “hard way” all the time.  Love you PK!

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Baseball Illustration – Running the Wrong Way

A few weeks ago I was able to attend a youth baseball game with my family.  We were cheering on one of our students that will be in 7th grade next year.  It was a great opportunity to show our support for him and his family…and then it happened…

Picture this.  The home team had been down the whole game, and they were mounting a comeback.  There was only one out, and there were runners on 2nd and 3rd.  The batter stepped in for the pitch.  “Ball four, take your base”, the umpire yelled.  The coach on 3rd claps his hands, and says “At a boy, hustle on down there”.  The player on 1st, who had limited baseball experience, took the coach’s advice.  He hustled to home.  The only problem was the catcher still had the ball, and he was tagged out easily.  The coach (with visible steam coming out of his ears) wisely did not say a word, but his face said it all.  The mom of the boy (she was sitting in front of me) asked me what happened.  I told her.  She said with sympathy and believability, “Oh OK, it was a miscommunication.  This is a learning experience.”  Probably knowing she would have to console her son after the game.

stealinghome2Why do I tell you this heartbreaking story?  Well, the mom was right, this is a learning experience.  You see, we listen to the wrong instruction all the time, thinking it is for us.  We fall into the trap of what the world labels as success, whether it is money, fame, prestige, title, or possessions.  We run towards those.  Yes you do.  You don’t?  You mind if I check your credit card statement?  Can I follow you around for a week and journal how you spend your time?

I’ve mentioned this on my blog before; one of my biggest fears is that I would waste my life.  That I would run towards things that have no value.  As Francis Chan said in Crazy Love, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” And everything in me does not want my life to be a road to nowhere… Let me give you a few examples of those things we run towards from a sermon a few weeks ago…

Is it lust?  Where it takes you to places that will shock you and leave you lost on a road to more destruction?

Is it worldly gain?  Money, career success…You keep on that road, you will be shocked you were on a road to unfulfillment and never-ending toil.

Is it approval/love from others?  You think you are doing everything right, but you are shocked all this time it was for the wrong reasons and you were on a road to a shallowness and frivolity.

I don’t want my life to be a baffling mistake, and when it is time to go home, my coach in heaven looks at me with disappointment.  On the contrary, I want to cross home plate knowing I did everything I could for the glory of God and to spread the Gospel and love of Jesus to others.  Let all of us strive to NEVER be an easy out, and to cross home with our coach saying “well done”.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gospel Invitation…invite or not invite, that is the question

Let me do a little prefacing here.  I am all for the gospel, sharing the gospel, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in hearts, and allowing that response to happen.  However, I have seen many articles and books written lately on the following:

  1. Luke-warm Faith – Crazy Love, Not a Fan, Radical…all are speaking against the luke-warm faith.  These happen to be 3 of my favorite books, and they do a great job at convicting the lackadaisical Christian, if there is such a thing.
  2. Easy-Believism – There is a growing worry in evangelical circles that easy-believism is easily-a-problem.  I’m on board here.  It’s not a simple prayer and your saved…it’s a…more on that later.
  3. Christian-ese – Be careful using words like “ask Jesus in your heart” or “saved”

(Examples of these articles can be found here, here, and here.)

So what is the solution to the problem.  One of my biggest fears is allowing someone to believe they are a son or daughter of God…and they get to heaven and get “Depart from me, I never knew you”.  That scares me to death…and I believe that is a healthy fear.  But what do we, as youth pastors, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, and parents do or not do in our Gospel invitations.  Well, I may not have all the answers, but here is a start:

  1. Don’t Be Their Assurance – It is not your job to be their assurance.  So it does no good to say “If you said that prayer, then you are a Christian”.  Sorry, but you don’t have that right to say that.  Only God knows their heart.  But you can point them to verses like John 5:24, I John 5:13,  or John 10:28-29 to find their assurance in their great God!
  2. Don’t do the Raise Your Hand Thing – Listen, I’m okay with raising your hand if you made a decision…but DON’T STOP THERE.  Provide counselors or small group leaders to follow up.  Follow up with the decision, make sure they understand, and welcome them into the family of God with instruction, guidance, and a new Bible.  Provide them with someone they can meet with on a weekly basis to go over the first steps of faith.
  3. Don’t Be Ashamed of The Gospel – The gospel is offensive.  You are telling people they are sinners and their ultimate destination is hell if they don’t do something about it.  Now, I don’t suggest opening your message with that statement, but don’t tiptoe around it either.
  4. Let Jesus be the Main Character -I recently shared a gospel message with about 70 students.  I asked some of my students the next week how the conversations were going with their friends.  One said they have had several spiritual conversations at the lunch table.  YES!  Another said his friends thought I was really funny.  NOOOOOO!  Illustrations, humor, and engaging the audience are good…but don’t let it get in the way of the star…Jesus Christ.
  5. Remember Your Job – Your job is to the set the table.  Don’t force people to say a prayer and see how many did so you can feel like it is a success.  Salvation is a life-long, life-surrendering, life-altering commitment of trust and faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s not just a prayer!  So, give them the gospel, sow the seed, and let Holy Spirit do a work in their hearts.

This is something that God has been convicting the snot out of me.  The Gospel is the best news anyone will hear in their entire life, and I don’t want to screw it up.  These are some lessons I have learned along the way…I would LOVE to hear what God has taught you.

 

 

Tagged , , , , , ,

Is Hell Real? (“Erasing Hell” Book Review)

Book:  “Erasing Hell”

Author:  Francis Chan

This book is a response to the recent argument in theological circles that hell is not a literal place.  Many struggle with the idea of hell, and for good reason, it is not a pleasant place.  How could a loving God send someone there?  Do those sent there truly spend eternity there?  The answers to these questions should be life-changing…because if hell truly is a real place and is an eternal place of torment, wouldn’t we do everything we can do stop people from going there?!?

Disclaimer:  Francis Chan is one of my favorite speakers/authors out there.  His book “Crazy Love” literally was life-changing in my life.  That being said, I will do my best not to allow that bias or fandom to enter my evaluation.

What I liked:

  1. 1.       No IMHO – These are not opinions in this book.  Each subject or question about hell uses Scriptural support.  And not just one passage, but many to support each claim made.
  2. 2.       Convicting – The description of hell and its everlasting qualities convict you.  Without ruining the findings, you leave these pages convicted that the world needs to hear about Jesus.
  3. 3.       Cherry on top – At the end of the book, following compelling arguments and deep Biblical study…the gospel message is given.  Very appropriate.

What I didn’t like:

  1. 1.       Anybody got a pen? – With any Francis Chan book, it is such an easy read that I often forget to soak in the ideas and concepts.  I end up reading to quickly wanting to get to the next page.  I realize being a page-turner is not a weakness…but you are warned:  have your pen ready.
  2. 2.       Advertisement at the end – Thought the advertisement for his previous book wasn’t needed at the end.   A page or two maybe, but to do the whole sneak peek thing…eh.

Recommendation:  A must read.  It wrestled with the aspects of hell fairly and Scripturally.  A good reminder for any preacher…for any Christian!

Tagged , , ,

Sermons on MP3

I’m no Mark Driscoll or Francis Chan, but one thing we have in common…we teach out of the same book, God’s Holy Word.  And I pray you will be blessed as much as I was as I studied and prepared.  So here is the link in case you want to listen to any of my sermons.

http://mbconline.org/resources/sermon-series

Tagged ,
Advertisements