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In The Shepherd’s Arms

During  study for a recent sermon that included references to Psalm 23 I spent some time with some classic books on the subject including The Treasury Of David by Spurgeon, A Shepard Looks At The 23 Psalm by Keller and a new favorite SAFE IN THE SHEPHERD’S ARMS: Hope and Encouragement From Psalm 23 by Max Lucado (2002, Thomas Nelson). The book showcases the themes of the Psalm from all of Lucado’s writings and arranges them with pictures and Scripture. The book includes all I have come to expect from Max from the great stories both from his own life and history to the memorable, “Mike Drop” statements like, “When you have the Shepherd you do indeed have everything you will ever need” The book was helpful in putting finishing touches on the sermon but it was also an encouragement to my soul. Of special note was the section “I Will Dwell In The House Of The Lord Forever pages 109-114 it captured powerfully the important idea as a Christian I am never really “home” until heaven which explains the reoccurring sense of unease, loss, and longing so common in all of our lives. The older I become the more Max Lucado’s word impact me with their eloquence, truth and power. If you buy and read this book I bet someone will come to mind who you want to share the book with-I know that has been the case for me!!

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“Extraordinary” Youth Ministry Resource

For years students have come to me and asked for youth ministry resources that have a connection to church history and the development of theological doctrines until now I had only secondary sources not specifically focused toward youth application or developmentally appropriate for younger students. Thankfully CHARACTER COUNTS: 40 Youth Ministry Devotions from Extraordinary Christians By Karl Levthauser (Group, 1999) has come across my desk and become my “go to” resource in these areas. Each of the chapter includes a “character trait” to be explored and a short biographical sketch designed to be read by the leaders= or a students along with active  learning element, follow up discussion question and application points. The line up of individules from the pages of Church History is impressively diverse including such popular figures as C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther, Billy Graham and Jim Elliot along with lesser well known leaders like Anthony of Egypt, Karl F.A Gulzlaff, Augustine, Callistus I, Francis Xavier and Maximilian Kolbe who have great lessons to teach 21st century students. Also included in each chapter is a “Sidelight”  that includes insights in to the individules life and ministry to provoke deeper further examination or clarify a theological movement or controversy. This is truly a great if generally underappreciated book and ministry tool. Perhaps the current trend toward deeper theological reflection and interaction with our students made this book a little before its time but the material is as timeless in 2017 as it was in 1999. If you are interested in helping your students grow deeper and wider in these subjects as well as spiritual formation get your hands on a copy of this book you will not be sorry!

Moving Toward Remarkable

Recently on a trans-Atlantic flight looking for a way to “invest” a couple of hours I came across an audio book which I began listening to in order to stay awake. The impact of the book went much deeper than just beating jet lag. In fact I spent the next 2 hours scratching notes and ideas into my “Daytimer” on every thing from personal and family thoughts to applications for my work at my university and the church I serve.So it was only natural that when I got home one of my first tasks was to order a hardback copy of the book. THE BIG MOO:Stop Trying To Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable edited by Seth Godin (Penguin Books, 2005). This collection of essays from 33 different authors covered a wide gambit of business and leadership issues. Tom Peters headlines an all star cast of writers who are not specified with their respective essays but work under the title, THE GROUP OF 33. The article titles are as interesting as the articles them selves like, Harry Houdini Was A Lousy Magician and How To Make Money With Garlic or  Tuesdays with Shecky: A Play In Three Jokes. Not all of the chapter are equality interesting or well written but I guarantee this book will make you think new thoughts, challenge some of your old ones and act as a spring board for long term personal applications. It is worth noting that 100% of the authors proceeds go directly to charity.

http://www.bigmoo.com allows for a 10 chapter preview and includes other helpful links as well. Worth checking out on line, as a read or even a listen!!

Food For Thought

Not every thought or book that contains them needs to long,complex or exhaustive to be impact full. THE PASTOR’S UNAUTHORIZED INSTRUCTION BOOK: What every Church Leader Ought to Know by R. Michael and Rebecca Sanders (Abingdon Press, 1995) is a small unassuming book filled with 256 proverbs to instruct or remind pastors and Christian leaders what they already know or ought to know. The context of the book includes several “elements of practical advice on issues more in tune to main line denominational situations like those ” about parsonage living that by in large does not exist in many ecclesiastical traditions any longer but still helpful principles about dealing with congregational and clergy interaction can be discerned. Some times being reminded of what you know already can come in handy. Wise Saying #76 states, “Resist the temptation for cute and flip remarks to all stupid questions and comments”. Just days after reading this I walked in to a gathering where someone remarked (incorrectly) to me loudly and publicly, “Your Late!” Immediately and with out conscious thought  the words formed in my mind, “Perhaps, but you are obnoxious” and “That’s Reverend Doctor late to you!” Of course neither of those responses was appropriate thankfully before the words were spoken this proverb popped into my head allowing my brain to engage and so  my mouth remained closed and   unkind words were not spoken, much to my relief upon further reflection. We all need reminders! I am considering  how I can share a proverb or two in the opening movement of my classes in pastoral ministry preparation beginning this coming fall.

Big Life-Big Dreams!

“You teach a little by what you say.You teach the most by what you are”. This quotation from Henrietta Mears  expresses the true value of autobiographies for Christian growth and development. In the book Teacher: The Henrietta Mears Story by Marcus Brotherton (Regal , 2006) the impact Miss Mears had on her generation and those that follow is displayed  clearly. Henrietta Mears was born in 1890 and lived an unconventional Christ-centered life of big dreams and bigger legacies. She exploded on to the ministry landscape taking the job of Christian Education director at Hollywood Presbyterian Church in 1928 and stayed overseeing the explosive growth of the Sunday School program until her death in 1963. She invited Bill Bright to live in her home as he and his wife were developing Campus Crusade for Christ, Future professors of Fuller Theological Seminary were a part of her college aged Sunday School class. Her Christian Camping programming model at Forest Home is created in impacting Jim Rayburn’s Young Life philosophy, “Jim based much of his camping philosophy on what He learned at Forest home” (P.114). Henrietta’s Sunday School lessons based on her educational training and public school teaching career earlier in her life were so popular that they formed the basis of Gospel Light publishing so they could be shared across the country and internationally. Billy Graham who sought her counsel during a season of wrestling with doubt declared she was “One of the greatest Christians I have even known” (p.81). Reading through the book it was amazing to conclude that Henrietta impacted and continues to have impact through her former students in almost every major evangelical ministry institution even in the 21st century. The book includes a list of life lessons in Chapter 10 that teach well, a great section of pictures (pp.71-80) and a time line of her life increasing the usefulness of the book. The 150 pages are well footnoted and helpful for formal and informal exploration into the history of youth ministry, Christian camping and Christian education. Read this book her story will impact your life and ministry!

Worth More Than A Cup Of Coffee

I admit it…I am a big fan of Max Lucado’s devotional writings but sometimes I find his brilliance work as a  wordsmith most impact fully in smaller “bite sized” selections. That is why I am such a fan  of MOCHA WITH MAX: Friendly Thoughts & Simple Truths by Max Lucado (J. Countryman/Thomas Nelson, 2005). The 190 pages are full of sort devotional segments organized around the 11 chapter themes that include, Joy and Music, Love, Patience and Endurance, Hope, Life, People and faith. The pages are interspersed with Biblical passages framed into art built around a coffee/Java motif. Max uses illusions to literature as in his reference to John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday on Page 14, personal stories like his daughter Andres’s learning to ride a bike on page 77 and penetrating questions like “What’s your definition of hope? on page 97. This constant variety keeps the book engaging page after page. And when you have quotations filling pages like the one on page 34 which reads, ” Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then when this day is done I will place my head on my pillow and rest:” you have a feast for the soul. If you have read Max in the past rediscover the impact his words can have to refresh your heart, if you have not read Max give him a try. You and your souls well being will not be sorry.

A “Must Read” On Leadership

Every so often a new book appears on the topic of leadership that adds significantly to ongoing thought and conversation. LEADING WITHOUT POWER: 9 Steps Toward Non-Coersive Ministry Leadership by Mark Oestreicher (The Youth Cartel, 2017) is such a book. Its small size, only 129 pages is deceiving in terms of insights,impact and application points.

Drawing on decades of youth ministry experiences in local churches as well as his high level leadership of Youth Specialties and The Youth Cartel Mark utilizes the power of story to underline and illustrate his nine “metaphysical job titles, including Competency Facilitator, Champion of Hope, Contextualization Czar and Collaboration Guide. The book begins with two essential questions, “In What Ways Do I Have Power In My Role? and In What Ways Do I Lack Power?” (p. 17) These questions are the foundation of the thesis of the book ,  We like power most of our collective understanding of leadership is hierarchical and authoritative  and ministry leadership should be marked by leading with out power. The remainder of the book unpacks what this looks like in all ministry contexts but especially in youth ministry.

For too long ministry has simply uncritically accepted cultural definitions and practices that have impeded the testimony of the gospel. Under the prophetic call to rethink our basic assumptions people like Mark Oestreicher can point the way to a better future. Read This Book!