Category Archives: Books

What I am reading now … Or at least attempting to


This is the time of year where the academic types publish their summer reading lists.  Everyone who is a “celebrity ” seems to publish some sort of list like this.  Since I am not an academic type (meaning that I am not a professor or an administrator at an academic institution currently – although I am looking for a place to serve in either a local church or academic institution)

I don’t have a summer break per se like those who work in academic institutions, but I try to read several books each year as time permits.  So, let’s dive into the stack (from top to bottom):

  1. Work Rules – by Laszlo Bock – this book I have been wanting to read for some time.  Mr. Bock is the leader of Google’s people function. If a company like Google can provide such wonderful perks for their employees and people are wanting to work there, then maybe there is something I can learn about employee satisfaction and retention?  I just started this book earlier this week.  What will motivate me to finish it is that it is due back to the library on June 29th – stay tuned for a book review.
  2. Who Moved My Pulpit? – by Thom S. Rainer – this book was released on June 1st, 2016 and I was chosen to be on the launch team.  We were provided a number of free books to give away to others.  I will mail out 12 books this week to friends in ministry.  I also have a few to give away here on the blog, so leave a comment if you would like a book.  If you are chosen, then I will mail you a book free of charge and hope that it will be a blessing to you.  I am enjoying this book because it deals with the ever present issue of change within the local church and how church members and pastors respond to change.  Here is a great quote from this book: “Sometimes the confused include those who want to hang on to some tradition for their own sense of security and comfort.” (pg. 22)  This book is definitely worth reading, even if you are not a pastor because it will tip over some of your own sacred cows in the process.  Stay tuned for a more detailed review.
  3. The Art of Work by Jeff Goins – this is a book that I read when I first purchased it, and I am now attempting to re-read and transcribe what I highlighted into Evernote for future reference.  This is a great book to help one discern one’s calling in life.  I am re-reading this to make sure that I didn’t miss anything the first time around.  Another reason I am re-reading this is because I am struggling with what I am supposed to be doing with my life.  I spent four years in Bible college, eight years in seminary and now six years post seminary and I am not doing what I have trained to do, serve in local church ministry as my vocation.
  4. The Pyramid and the Box by Joel Tetreau – this is a book that I have had in the stack for sometime but now it has been moved up.  Joel is a pastor friend who pastors in Gilbert, AZ and is a fellow alumnus of Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, MN.  I will probably read this book when I finish Who Moved My Pulpit since the subject matter is similar in both books. From what I have read of this book so far tells me that this work is something that new and experienced pastors should read and glean much from it.
  5. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene/Joost Elffers – This is a book that I have owned for sometime and have started it and stopped it several times.  The bright orange color stands out in the stack and after seeing a Facebook post on this book, I decided to read this book from start to finish and not quit this time.  I realize that this is a secular book and I am looking forward to reading it and looking at it from my Christian worldview point.  I can imagine that there will be things that I will disagree with from an ethical standpoint and other things that I can learn from it without an ethical conflict or conundrum.
  6. Whatever The Cost – by David and Jason Benham – this is a book that I picked up when the Benham Brothers spoke at the First Baptist Dallas Men’s Conference in April 2016.  I had heard of the Benham Brothers through their ups and downs with the media over their reality TV show which never aired because they took a bold stand for Christ.  This book tells the story behind the story of what happened to them with regard to their reality TV show and how it opened their eyes to what is going on in the media and the tremendous pressure that is placed on the media by activist groups and sponsors.
  7. Living Forward – by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy – this is a book that I preordered before it came out and was able to score a good book at a reasonable price along with some really great bonuses.  I served on Michael Hyatt’s launch team for his book Platform when it first came out.  This is a book that is similar to Jeff Goins book – The Art of Work.  I stopped reading at Chapter 7 – Dedicate One Day because I have not had one day that I can do what this chapter is wanting the reader to do.  When I find a day, then I will resume reading.
  8. Don’t Fire Your Church Members – by Jonathan Leeman – I want to read as much as I can on church government and really understand why I consider myself a congregationalist.  This book would run in tandem with Joel Tetreau’s book The Box and the Pyramid.  There is a shift in some churches to abandon congregational government and move to an elder rule type government which inevitably makes the average church member feel that they have no input into any decisions in church life.  This book reinforces that congregational government is Biblical and should not be abandoned for religious political correctness.
  9. Every Child Can Succeed by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias – I ordered this book from Amazon at the recommendation of my brother in law who is a former school administrator. We were having some difficulties with my son in school and this book was recommended to us.  I have read most of it and I have discovered my learning style which in turn helped me to discern his learning style.  I also was able to gently refer this title to the school administrator at my son’s school – hopefully he will read it.
  10. Clutter-Free Christianity by Robert Jeffress – I received this book as a gift after attending the Step One class and luncheon at First Baptist Dallas.  I have always enjoyed reading Robert Jeffress even before I joined First Baptist Dallas.  I remember one of the first books that I read of his entitled Guilt-Free Living.  This book appeals to me because I am a planner and an organizer by nature.  I hate clutter and chaos.  My desk at work is neat and clean.  Don’t look at my office at home.  It is cluttered and these books are stacked on a tray.  I really work at staying organized but it is currently a work in progress as I also attempt to go paperless using Evernote as well.  I have read the first two chapters in this book.
  11. How To Make Wise Decisions by Robert Jeffress – Another book by my pastor.  This book also appealed to me to re-examine my calling in life.  You know this must be a controversial book when on page 10, Dr. Jeffress wrote that his own brother wrote him a 4 page letter begging him not to write this book.  I appreciate that he didn’t listen to his brother and he wrote the book. When I finish reading it, if things haven’t become clearer to me about my calling in life, I will definitely attempt to see if the Pastor will give me some time so we can have a conversation.
  12. Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp – Shamefully this is another book that I have had for a long time.  I started reading it, would get convicted about something I read, stop reading it for a time, then resume and get convicted again and stop reading it. I finally gave up and decided to start reading it from start to finish.  This also falls in line with several other books that I am reading with regard to calling and vocation.
  13. Baptist Distinctives by Kevin Bauder – Kevin was one of my theology professors while I was in seminary and I learned a great deal from him during my early seminary years while I was trying to figure out what I really believed.  I started reading this book while on vacation at Christmas but stopped after our vacation ended.  I hope to resume this at some point
  14. Battling Unbelief by John Piper –  I had never heard of John Piper until I went to seminary in 2002 and did not realize who he was and where he served until I had gone through a semester of seminary.  Unfortunately, my schedule did not permit me to attend a service at Bethlehem Baptist Church while I lived in the Minneapolis- St Paul area and I have never met John Piper.  I am however thankful that God has chosen to use him in a way that serves the body of Christ as a whole.  I started reading this book shortly after we moved to Texas because my whole life was in an upheaval after moving away from MN and still not being in full time ministry and trying to find a local church and all the disruption that was going on in late 2014.  Unfortunately, I stopped reading and I am not sure why.  I plan to resume reading this book at some point

I have set some goals for myself to read and in some cases re-read some books the remainder of this year.  I am not sure how I will do.  I hope that by sharing this list, it will be a help and a blessing to someone.  I am not famous or a celebrity but here is my reading list.  Enjoy and leave comments as you are able!

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Book Review – The Professor’s Puzzle

The Professors Puzzle - Cover shot for review

The Professors Puzzle 

I recently was made aware of a new book that piqued my interest and wanted to write a review of it.

The Professor’s Puzzle is by Michael S. Lawson and it is a new book to the Christian education field.  Even though I have expressed a call to pastoral ministry, educational ministry has also been an interest of mine since I have attended and graduated from Bible college and seminary.

When I first picked up this book and started reading, I wondered if I was going to get lost in a sea of educational philosophy, terminology, or concepts that I did not understand.  I appreciated the author’s labor in explaining each chapter in brief in the preface.  Most book prefaces are quite brief and not very helpful.  This preface is one of the best that I have ever read because it painstakingly explains each chapter without giving away the entire chapter content.  This is helpful so as the reader, you know which direction the author is going.  The author does start out the book with a chapter on A Philosophy of Christian Academic Education.  He starts out by addressing the disparity between Greek philosophers and the Bible.  Many times Christians are too quick to immediately dismiss the Greek philosophers, but I believe as the author does that we can learn something from them in relation to our faith.  The author outlines this stellar answer on page 3.  This is the first time I have seen an evangelical scholar really take the time to address the issue and relationship between Greek philosophers and Christian education.  I knew after reading his answer that this was going to be a great book.  Also in the first chapter he asks a legitimate question that all professors and institutions should be asking of every course offering – “How do students move from mere cognition about him to an intimate relationship with him?  What role does/should a school have in this process?

The author does discuss many facets of education in the early chapters.  He talks about an integrated curriculum, motivation, how to write a syllabus, managing the classroom, using a variety of teaching methods, etc.  These are great things to know about and to learn from a Christian perspective.  I think where this book excels are the last two chapters where the author gets away from the philosophies and methods and talks about something that is probably not discussed often in many institutions of higher learning and that is how professors related to students.  Too many times professors seem themselves as the purveyors of truth and that they are “above” or “over” the student.  The author makes a great observation regarding the relationship between teacher and student:

The relationship with students is under the absolute control of the teacher… The student’s perception of you, as a Christian teacher, is the platform from which you minister.  Your behavior inside the classroom sets up the opportunity to minister outside the classroom.

In furthering the relationship between teacher and student, the author talks about providing the students “a get to you know form”  Also on pg. 228-229 he lists several different ways to show a personal interest in students.  Many of us can probably think of professors that we have had at the college and seminary level who were good at this.

Towards the end of the book the author talks about issues like funding, enrollment, faculty credentials, tenure.  I love the quote about budgets that should be on the wall of every administrator in every institution of higher learning.

In reality a budget is only a hopeful forecast of what might happen, assuming a stable income stream and no unexpected expenses.

One factor that I am glad that the author discussed in the book, which is usually the “elephant in the room” in some cases.  He talks quite frankly about the hiring practices in most higher educational institutions.  I am glad that he addressed this quotation, but never really went beyond how to escape the phenomena that we call “politics”.  I expect politics to be at play in the worldly institutions but find it shameful that they exist within Christian institutions.

While good grades and grasp of content do matter, other factors often play a larger role in getting a teaching job. Auburn University published a study of junior faculty among theological schools.  They reported that an applicant’s ‘being known in some way’ contributed greatly to their hiring.  When schools looks to fill positions, senior faculty expressed concern about the new hire ‘fitting in’.  Relationships and perceived attitudes greatly affected hiring practices.  In their words, “connections count”.

I found myself reflecting back a lot of my educational experiences in both college and seminary as I read this book.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to current professors, students, and those especially who are considering a career in the academy especially those who will be teaching and training future servants of Christ.

It would be a great honor to be able to meet the author personally and have a discussion about this book.  Living in the DFW area might make that a possibility.

Disclosure:  I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. I was not required to publish a positive review.

Taking issue with Malcolm Gladwell

Recently, I was able to download a sample portion of Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath.  I was interested to read this book because in our Men’s Bible Study we are studying the life of David and I wanted to read someone else’s perspective on this well-known Bible story.  I was flying home from Dallas last Friday and decided to read the sample portion that I had downloaded.

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. Photo courtesy of books.google.com

I was enjoying reading the immense detail as I started in the introduction and then I got to page 10 in the Introduction and when I read this statement:

What matters next is a matter of legend”

I was absolutely appalled.  Here is a well-known author who is writing on a well-known Old Testament Biblical Narrative and he undermines the rest of the book by negating the core Biblical account of the entire story.  After I read that phrase, I went back and re-read it to make sure that I wasn’t overreacting and I read it right.  At that point, I went to my Bible to see what Gladwell was calling legend.

Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth.  So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him.  But there was no sword in the hand of David.  (I Samuel 17:49-50 NKJV)

I do not see how this could be considered legend when the Bible is very specific regarding the events that took place at this point.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, but after reading this one phrase that undermines the Biblical narrative, I am not so sure that I would be impressed with the rest of the book. I might end up downloading the rest of the book some day, but right now I am not in a hurry to do so.

I would love to engage Malcolm Gladwell in a discussion regarding this phrase, but I seriously doubt he will even see this posting.

 

 

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World

We live in a busy, noisy world.  I do not think anyone will dispute or debate that fact!  What is disputed is how to navigate our world, especially with the rise of social media (Twitter and Facebook, etc) and how that changes the way we interact with businesses and each other.

Michael Hyatt has cleared out the confusion and lays out the steps to building a successful platform in his latest book – Platform

Platform - Get Noticed in a Noisy World

BONUS OFFER: To celebrate the launch of the book this week, Michael is giving away $375.98 worth of free bonus content for those who purchase the book between May 21 and May 25. Complete details are available at http://michaelhyatt.com/platform

 

Bonuses include: Platform Video Jumpstart Program (six sessions), How to Write a Winning Book Proposal (two e-books and two audio sessions), Why NOW is the Best Time Ever to Be an Author (hour-long video), Digital Versions of Platform (audio and eBook), and more!

 

I received this book free from the author along with a request to post a review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 […] : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Do yourself and your future a favor, get this book today, take advantage of Michael’s bonus content and start building or expanding your platform right away!

Platform Launch Team

I have been reading Michael Hyatt’s blog for quite a while.  I can’t remember exactly how I found it, but once I started reading, I really enjoyed what I was reading and I was quite impressed that Michael found the time as a busy CEO (he is now Chairmen of Thomas Nelson) to blog.  Part of me was very curious how a CEO of a publicly traded company would be able to blog and not run afoul of the SEC and other regulatory agencies as well as the legal department of Thomas Nelson. (I never have asked Michael that question- who knows maybe he will answer it if he reads this post?!)

Recently, I saw where Michael was looking for volunteers to help participate in the upcoming launch of his new book Platform.  I figured this would be a great learning experience, so I thought I would apply.  I filled out a small questionnaire and waited to see what would happen.

To my surprise, I received the following email in my inbox on May 8th.

Congratulations! You have been chosen to be one of Michael Hyatt’s “Platform” launch team members.

I was shocked and honored at the same time.  Shortly after, I joined up in the private Platform Launch Team Facebook page and then I was overwhelmed.  There were people here who are successful authors, speakers, coaches.  I later found out that there were 764 people who applied to be a part of the group and they chose around 100 people and I was one of 100.  If I wasn’t intimidated before, I sure was now!

The emails started to come in regarding our advance copies of the book which I proceeded to make sure I had on my MacBook and iPad.  I will write a separate review about the book shortly.

I enjoy all of the interaction and the camaraderie that is taking place within the group.  People are asking a lot of good questions regarding the book and how it relates to their individual situation and others are chiming in ready to help in various ways.  It is almost like a family in many ways.

I sometimes wonder how or why I was chosen, but that is not for me to know.  I am glad that I can attempt to make some contributions along the way.  I am not an author, coach, or a business person of any significance. I am a seminary graduate with a heart for pastoral ministry who works for a Fortune 15 company to pay the bills!   I am hoping to have learned enough from the book to be able to make application in my own life and ministry so that I have a Platform to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a hurting and needy world!

I will say more about the book in another post.

Have you heard of Michael Hyatt’s new book Platform?  If so, do you plan on purchasing a copy?  Let me know in the comments section.  I will post some details in a future post on how you can get some bonuses as a result of purchasing the book during the launch week of May 21st!  Stay Tuned!

E-Books – they are here to stay

I enjoy a good book and have always enjoyed reading.  While in college and seminary, I did a fair amount of reading and as a result of those experiences, learned to appreciate different books and authors.  Over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of books. Unfortunately, because I do not have an office (see my earlier post on this), most of my books are currently in storage.  I do have some in the living room and some on a small shelf in the bedroom.

In recent years, books have evolved from the printed page to the electronic edition or e-book as they are commonly referred to.  Amazon has revolutionized the e-book with their Kindle device and the Kindle app.  So now, you can acquire loads of books on your Kindle or iPad or Mac without taking up a lot of physical storage space.  Not to be left out, Apple has the iBooks platform for the  iPad and iPod touch.

I enjoy an e-book because I can read them anywhere and I am not having to lug around a lot of books.  I can remember while in seminary working on a paper, that I would have either one or two canvas bags full of books.  Now, if I were in seminary, I would be able to have most of my sources on my MacBook and not have to lug around those bags of books.

Here is where the difficulty lies with e-books….for me.

Out of sight, out of mind.  Right now, as I am writing this, I am sitting adjacent to my bookshelf in the living room and I am looking at several volumes.  With the e-book, unless I open the reader app (either Kindle or iBooks) then I sometimes forget that I have the e-book!

In addition to my e-books, I also have Logos Bible Software and that also has a ton of books as well.  Currently in my Logos library, I have approximately 2000 titles, but again, unless I have Logos open, I sometimes forget that I have a book within the collection.

With my print books, I can see them on the shelves and I know that they are there.  With my e-books, I sometimes forget that they exist.

Does anyone have a solution to this issue?