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Follow Jesus to the Ends of the Earth

Category: Leadership (page 1 of 5)

Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Martin Luther King Jr. quoted scripture regularly, often encouraging people with the prayer above from the Old Testament prophet Amos (5:24). King reminded our nation that social justice is biblical. Today we remember and give thanks for a man who’s legacy continues to remind us what’s on the heart of God.

Trinity College Library, Dublin

“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”

I can relate to this quote by the Reformation-era scholar, Desiderius Erasmus. Reading endures as one of the pleasures of my life. I enjoy the feel of a book, or a Kindle, in my hand. Reading is also one of my favorite developmental activities. I read a lot for work and for fun, which you can surmise from the list of books I spent time in this year.

The first books listed are the ones I enjoyed the most and for whatever reason stuck with me after I read them. Many of the others that follow are very good as well. A few are not so good, but there’s a dog in every bunch, right? The books (and authors) are listed in the order I read them, not necessarily in order of priority.

Favorite books of 2017

The Zookeeper’s Wife – Diane Ackerman. The book is better than the movie which I also enjoyed very much.

Paul – Charles Swindoll. One of a series of books by Charles Swindoll exploring great lives of people in the Scriptures. This is an exceptionally good book on the life of Paul. Reads like a novel and may change your life.

The Shack – William Young. While I may not agree with all that is portrayed here, I appreciated the author stretching my limited view of God.

Preaching – Timothy Keller. Communication is so important in ministry. Few communicate better than Timothy Keller and this book shares his wisdom on that topic.

The Day of Battle – Rick Atkinson. Book two of a trilogy on the United States’ involvement in the European theatre in World War II. If you are a history junkie, you’ll love these books. Book three is coming off my shelf for 2018.

For the Glory – Duncan Hamilton. This book is a must read for fans of missionary biographies, Olympians, godly men, WWII buffs and heroes.

American Caesar – Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964 – William Manchester. A fascinating look at the story of a larger-than-life leader of the US military, both before, during and after WWII. Are you noticing a theme in my reading? I had a war thing going on last spring.

Team of Teams – Stanley McChrystal. Now to modern warfare. Actually, this is a business/teamwork book based on McChrystal’s experiences fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. I was surprised by how much more I liked this book than I thought I would. If you work in a large and complex organization (like I do in Cru) and you want to help bring positive change in some manner, you’ll find this book helpful.

You Are What You Love – James K.A. Smith. The title is clear, compelling and convicting. Smith’s insight will help you think more deeply about what you choose to love in light of your faith and the world around you.

The Holy Bible (New International Version). I set out to read the Bible cover-to-cover every year. This year was #24. I’ve read over a dozen different English translations and I find that I prefer the NIV. To me, it just reads the best.

News of the World – Paulette Jiles. An excellent Western novel with a good guy who does the right things. Sometimes I need to read about guys like that.

The Listening Life – Adam McHugh. On learning to listen well to God and to others in a world that values chatter.

See What I Have Done – Sara Schmidt. There’s an old song that goes, “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done she gave her father forty-one.” Now that you know the topic, how could you not read the book? Entertaining, creepy and I’m sure a movie in the near future.

Words On Target – Sue Nichols. An older book, published in 1963. I desire to grow as a communicator and a writer. This is a valuable book on both. Along with Keller’s book Preaching listed above, Words on Target bookended my year as I seek to get better.

The others with a few scattered notes

Advent and Christmas Wisdom from GK Chesterton – Satterlee & Moore

The Sympathizer – Nguyen

Remote – Fried & Hannson

Rogue Lawyer – Grisham

The Vatican Pimpernel – Fleming

Chocolat – Harris

Strong and Weak – Crouch

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Hansen. Jesse earned his punishment, but no one deserves to be shot in the back while hanging curtains.

The Man-Eaters of Tsavo – Patterson. Check out the movie The Ghost and the Darkness – it’s this book on film.

Fire From Heaven – Renault

Innovation Unplugged – Harkin

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea – Demick. Hard to believe how people are forced to live in North Korea.

The Unlikely Spy – Silva. One of a series of books about an Israeli art-restorer who moonlights as an assassin. A strong combo to keep you reading late into the night.

Divine Dance – Rohr

The Virginian – Wister

Freakonomics – Levitt

The Given Day – Lehane

The Art of Pilgrimage – Cousineau

Adrift – Griffiths. A book about zombies on a cruise ship. Fascinating, but they have nothing on Lizzie Borden.

Adrift 2: Sundown – Griffiths

Adrift 3: Rising – Griffiths

Anything You Want – Sivers

The War of Art – Pressfield

AD 30 – Dekker

The Girl with a Pearl Earring – Chevalier

So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Newport

Scrum – Sutherland

Moscow Rules – Silva. Sometimes only an assassin can make things right.

Everything I Never Told You – Ng

Beneath a Scarlet Sky – Sullivan

Originals – Grant

The Mark of the Assassin – Silva. He certainly left a mark.

On Trails – Moor

The Alchemist – Coelho

The Pilgrimage – Coelho

The Defector – Silva. Embarrassing, but another assassin book. I’m saving the rest for 2018.

The Undertaking – Lynch

Gone Tomorrow – Child

The Illusion of Separateness – Van Booy

October 31, 1517 – Marty. On the influence of the Reformation to this day.

Jaws – Peter Benchley. This is the bestseller that spawned the movie. In this case I think that the movie is better that the book, but maybe it’s just that I remember a nervous feeling when jumping into a lake in Missouri after seeing Jaws for the first time. Who really knows what’s down there?

Collective Genius – Hill, Brandeau, Truelove, Lineback

Walden – Thoreau

Building a Story Brand – Miller

Never So Few – Chamales. A long novel on warfare in Burma during WWII. Quite good and somewhat forgotten.

Flow – Csikszentmihalyi. This is a famous book, often quoted, on work habits and styles that lead to ultimate production. While I liked much of his thought, it became apparent that the author’s prescription for helping solve the issues of our world are shallow and secular. I should have stopped half-way though.

Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long – White. Donald Trump before Donald Trump. Long, from Louisiana, once said that poor people’s three best friends were Sears & Roebuck, Jesus Christ and Governor Huey Long. Sound familiar?

The Hardest Ride – Rottman

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – Piper

May 2018 bring you much happy reading and and in the spirit of Erasmus, plenty of Amazon gift cards to buy books!

Happy 2018!

It’s a new year – try something you’ve always wanted to do!

Fulfilling Our Deepest Desires

Greek sculpture of a sea nymph found at the British Museum in London. An example of human sexuality as portrayed by the ancients.

Today’s blog post comes courtesy of Dr. Lewis Winkler, professor at East Asia School of Theology in Singapore, a good friend of mine for many years and a thoughtful blogger at lewinkler.com. I found his thoughts on our society’s views toward sexual fulfillment powerful and insightful. As we continually find ourselves hearing this topic on the news and though our entertainment venues, these thoughts are timely, so say the least.

I greatly appreciate Dr. Winkler’s views as he focuses on the issues and shares a Biblical response:

The recent death of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was another reminder of the radical and sweeping changes over the past 40-50 years regarding popular attitudes toward human sexuality. While many things could be said about these seismic transformations, two major and interrelated claims have emerged which bear special mention.

First, sexual fulfillment—whether heterosexual or homosexual in nature—is now considered centrally important to human identity and flourishing. Second, and closely related, we are told that suppressing and rebuffing strong sexual desire not only leads to unhappiness, it is detrimental to human well-being and may even lead to psychosis.

The idea that strong personal desires should be sublimated (redirected) and subjugated (denied) in contemporary life is not only considered unreasonable, it’s deemed downright dangerous. Instead, we are repeatedly told that life is fuller and more meaningful when we pursue and fulfill the deepest and strongest desires of our hearts, especially those that are sexual.

It may come as a surprise to some, but the fulfillment of our heart’s desires is actually biblical language. Consider, for example, Psalm 37:4 where David says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

There are at least two things to notice here. First, the desires of our heart arise from delighting first and foremost in the Lord. When we delight in God, He gives us desires for good and noble things, and then fulfills those desires as we trust and seek Him. Second, however, there is an implication: Our heart’s desires could also be directed toward what is evil and base. This is why Jeremiah 17:9 warns, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” In fact, we have a choice in the matter.

The decision to delight in the Lord above all other persons and things is the essential and indispensable prerequisite for experiencing divine fulfillment of our heart’s deepest desires. Our heart has to be redirected and reshaped by the things that the Lord loves and values. When we consciously and continually choose to delight in Him, our desires become very different than what they used to be.

At the same time, however, we must admit that our delight in the Lord is never perfect or uninterrupted. We still struggle with those pesky and sometimes overwhelming evil desires of the flesh. As James 1:14-15 explains, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

This dangerous element of strong wrong desire leading to sin is not taken seriously enough in contemporary society, a society that now expects and demands our deepest desires—especially sexual ones—to be granted every right and opportunity to be fulfilled. In this context, we rarely, if ever, want to be told what we can and cannot do as well as when we can and cannot do it. Human selfishness and sin make us prone to demand whatever we want, as much as we want, as often as we want it. But these are the attitudes of spoiled children, not mature adults. Mature adults learn to curb their voracious and capacious appetites. But how do we become mature? We must do two basic things: subjugate and sublimate our desires.

To subjugate our desires means we must bring them under the Lordship of Christ. No matter how strong they are, no matter how much our society has told us we have every right to fulfill them, all our desires must be placed upon the alter of the Lord. As we do, He may or may not see fit to fulfill them, but when we offer them up to Him, He gives us the grace to resist temptation and develop spiritual maturity and strength.

The second thing we are called to do is sublimate our desires. Here, we consciously redirect them so that they might either be fulfilled in their proper contexts or be turned into desires for something or someone better and greater.

In speaking about subjugation in Colossians 3:5, the Apostle Paul uses the language of homicide and slaughter: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

When Paul speaks about sublimation and the redirection of desire in Philippians 3:8-10, he highlights the incomparable joy of knowing Jesus Christ above all else. He knows that without something or someone better and greater to gaze at and aspire to, we would easily fall back into fulfilling our desires for lesser and ultimately harmful and dehumanizing things.

The world is wrong about many of our deepest human desires. Their denial and redirection, far from harming our humanity, is most often the pathway to a deeper knowledge of God and a greater experience of who we as human beings were meant and created to be.

As we continually submit our desires to God, we can, like Asaph in Psalm 73:25-26, honestly say of Him, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

 

Mistakes are the portals of discovery

James Joyce

A Japanese Kintsugi bowl, which only becomes valuable after being broken and pieced back together.

Do Your Prayers “Fall to the Ground”?

We find a fascinating description of prayer in 1 Samuel 3:19. The writer describes Samuel as he grows up in the temple under the tutelage of the high priest, Eli. The scriptures say that, the Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.

So, apparently you can pray and have your words, fall to the ground. I wonder how many of my prayers have done so? I’m guessing enough to trip over, or even enough to be buried under. How many selfish and insincere prayers never make it to the Lord? Across my lips and straight to the earth.

Food for thought the next time you pray. Try to imagine where your prayers might be going – to the Lord, or to the floor?

Labor & Money

Today is Labor Day, the holiday where we rest from our labors and honor those who work for a living. Here’s a couple of things I notice about people who labor. One, some people work harder for their money than others. Two, some people do really important jobs and yet our society pays them much less than they are worth. Others do what are in reality trivial jobs, but get paid massive amounts of money.

It’s easy to see. A great teacher, for example, is of much more value to the long-term health and development of a society than a great entertainer. However, a great entertainer can make 100x the salary of a great teacher in one year. Or how about those who fight our fires and protect our lives, as opposed to CEOs who depend on that basic level of safety to build and to make their companies profitable? Even lousy CEOs tend to be compensated at a much higher rate than excellent firefighters and rescue personnel.

As I read recently in this blog post by Seth Godin, our society does not always match money to contribution. Profitable is not the same as important. Sometimes it is, but often it is not. Think about it – who has influenced you the most profoundly in your life, a great teacher or a great entertainer? For most of us, it’s the contribution of the lowly paid teaching professional that helped set the trajectory of our life.

Today on this Labor Day, let us remember those who work in jobs that serve and promote the common good in our world. This day is for those heroes, regardless of how much money they make this year.

God is Found in the Whisper

We find the story in 1 Kings 19. As Elijah stands outside his cave and waits for the Lord to speak, he first experiences a mighty rushing wind, near hurricane force. So powerful, this must be the Lord!

But the Lord was not in the wind.

Then, a massive earthquake. Surely, this is how the Lord sets foot on the earth.

But the Lord was not in the earthquake.

Next, a wildfire consuming the countryside. Of course, the Lord is like fire and everything He touches is lit ablaze.

But the Lord was not in the fire.

Then Elijah hears something soft. He turns his head in that direction. It’s an almost imperceptible brush against his ear, a quiet passing, merely a whisper.

It is the Lord. God is found in the whisper.

I love the way the Lord is so counter-intuitive. We think that when the Lord speaks He does so by smashing his way into our lives. God finds it better to whisper. We must listen, pay attention, cock our ear away from the noise of our culture and towards quiet places. Why do so many people find that they feel closer to God when out in the nature? Because it’s quiet. Learn to cultivate times and places of quiet, for it is there that we find the Lord.

Abraham Lincoln on Freedom

I’m reposting this, my favorite speech, because it’s good to read these thoughts when we’re thinking about the independence we all value and the nation we so appreciate. Lincoln’s Gettysburg address…

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

For the Glory – Chariots of Fire Revisited

Eric Liddell, the subject of Duncan Hamilton’s biography, For the Glory, was both an Olympic champion in the 400 meters and an exemplary missionary in China. Perhaps even more impressive is how he treated people throughout his life. Rich or poor, English or Chinese, he truly “did unto others” in the sense that Jesus meant.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Chariots of Fire, which came out in 1981 and told the story of Liddell and fellow countryman Harold Abrahams, as their running careers culminated in the 1924 Olympics. This book goes much deeper into Liddell’s family background and follows his life up to that Olympic moment, then on through his missionary career in China. Liddell’s faith in Christ and his devotion to others shines through in the book.

Liddell’s life story is wonderful and tragic. As you read you’ll discover a new hero in the faith, just as I’ve done. This is a splendid book for your summer reading and I encourage you to watch the movie if you’ve never seen it!

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