Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Matheny Manifesto, by Mike Matheny

Mike Matheny shook up the world of Little League Baseball when he agreed to coach a team of kids, but the shakeup was when he wrote a five page letter to the other parents declaring how he would be different in the way he approached the task. Bottom Line, Matheny wanted to teach kids how to play the game, he wanted to teach them character, he wanted to help them develop into good young people who show respect to the other players on their team, to their coaches, to their parents, to the umpires and to the other teams they play. Character is more important than winning!

That is quite different from other things that little league coaches want. Most want to win at all costs and this usually leads to very poor character development and to allowing many kids to sit on the sideline and never really getting a chance to play and develop.

In his book Matheny talks about his own development through little league and then high school, college, the minor leagues and then the majors. His focus is on the many coaches that were getting it right and how they helped him to develop into a fine young man.

The other thing that is really good is the fact that he honors Coach John Wooden from the U.C.L.A. Bruins for his coaching style. Coach Wooden was also one who sought to develop character in his college athletes instead of just wanting to win. What's interesting is that Coach Wooden was working with Basketball Players not Baseball players. BUT, the coaching style works no matter what the sport.

In our culture parents have become a major problem with youth sports. Matheny addresses that and proves his point of the fact that building character over winning will also bring a winning style. Coach Wooden had a winning percentage of over 800 for his entire career, that is impressive and won't easily be out done.

If you want an encourage story about coaching for character this is the book for you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Do the Kind Thing, by Daniel Lubetzky

First of all I want to thank Ballantine Books and Net Galley for making a review copy of this book available to me in exchange for an unbiased review.

This book is mainly a book about entrepreneurship, but it is also a book about commitment and integrity in creating a new type of product that is not just about the product, but it is about the efforts behind the scenes to bring people together to work together and form bonds through business that will lead towards bonds in relationships and bring about peaceful coexistence between cultures.

Daniel Lubetzky started PeaceWorks and KIND as a way to bring cultures together that were in conflict with each other. In other words how do you bring Jews and Arabs together in a business venture that will not only succeed as a business but provide the ground work for bringing cooperation between the two cultures and afford a peaceful coexistence.

While working on this premise Lubetzky also wanted to bring to market a product, Nutrition Snack Bars, that were wholesome, good tasting and “kind” to your body by providing a healthy alternative to the processed “paste” products of energy bars, nutrition bars and breakfast bars that our culture has become use to.

The book tells the story of the struggle to start business while holding on to the values and morals that Lubetzky wanted to bring to our society.

Another part of this book was not what he intended originally and that is to provide a book for Entrepreneurs  that is sort of a guide book on how to make your venture a going concern that will not only provide you a healthy work environment and enjoyment in your work, but provide an income that can pay your bills.

One of the first things that I appreciated was his discussion that the drive for PeaceWorks and KIND was not to produce income (money) just for the sake of income, but to provide a product and thus service to our culture that would help them eat better, fight obesity, fight diabetes and well, just flat out taste good.

I had not heard of KIND before this book, but while reading I ordered a couple of boxes of them on Amazon and was amazed at how good they were. I am now sold on the concept and the product.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Saturate; Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life, by Jeff Vanderstelt

First of all I would like top thank Crossway Publishers and Net Galley for making a review copy of this book available to me, at no cost, in exchange for a review.

Jeff Vanderstelt is a former youth Pastor with Willow Creek Church and now a church planting Pastor in Tacoma, Washington. This book is his first and is a description of his spiritual walk and to some degree his spiritual awakening to how the Christian life should be lived and how Discipleship should take place.

As the book started I thought it was a bit over the top and I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it very much. In his introduction he states, “Can you imagine every city, every neighborhood, every street, and every house saturated with Jesus’s presence through his people? What if, in every school, every classroom, and every extracurricular activity, students daily experience the person and work of Jesus? And can you dream with me of a day when no business office, retail center, or industrial hub can get away from the good news of Jesus proclaimed in words and expressed in gracious deeds? A day when every cafĂ©, pub, restaurant, or bakery smells of the aroma of Christ? This is God’s intention for this world. And his plan is to do it through his people.”

I thought that was a bit idealistic given how our culture is and how there is such a distain for Christ and His church. So I thought here is another idealistic young person whom needs a reality check!

But, as I read more of the book I found that I understood where he was coming from and I found that I agreed with him on more and more points.

Since I am working with a church plant group that is operating the same way that Pastor Vanderstelt is with his “Missional” church plant I appreciated his major points of how we are to live with Jesus as the central focus of our daily lives and that we should be so immersed and filled by the Spirit that everyone around us will see Jesus and see how Jesus wants to influence our culture and influence each person’s life, for the better.

This book is a compilation of stories about peoples changed lives and how Discipleship played an important role in each of those changes.

For those who know Christ and understand their Bible fairly well this book will seem like just a reminder of how we should be living our lives. But then again it has some radical thoughts, according the many, about how to Disciple others within their church community.

This will be an encouraging read for laypeople and pastors as well who are wanting to think through how living in the community of Christ and discipling others might look with some new emphasis on boldly living out our commitment to Christ.


Cries from the Cross, by Erwin Lutzer

Based on a sermon series by Erwin Lutzer the pastor of Moody Church. This book was released in a decade ago but is being re-released in new format's and in the Kindle format. I want to thank Moody Press for making a review copy of this book available to me for free through Net Galley.

Pastor Lutzer will take you through all of the statements that Christ made on the Cross when the Romans were crucifying him. Those statements are:
1. Father forgive them for they know not what they do
2. Today you will be with me in Paradise, a promise given to the repentant criminal
3. Woman, here is your son . . . Here, is your mother
4. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
5. I am thirsty
6. It is finished!
7. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit

Each of these statements from Christ is full of meaning. As Pastor Lutzer points out when someone is dying the last words that they utter are usually very important to them and something that you should take care to listen to. These words of Christ reveal His heart and reveal His mission that the Father sent Him to earth to accomplish. That mission is being finalized here at the Cross!

Through excellent writing and exposition of the Scripture you will find encouragement as Pastor Lutzer explains each statement and what their impact is on the people who were at the Cross watching Him die. They are statements that we should take time to carefully study and meditate on so that we understand their impact to the world and to ourselves.

I believe this is a great book for people to be reading this month before we get to Easter Sunday. I would encourage you to pick up a copy and make a careful study of it.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Rhythms of Worship, by John G. Stevens and Michael Waschevski

First of all I want to thank Westminster John Knox Press for making a review copy of this book available to me through Net Galley. I appreciate their kindness to allow me an advance look at a wonderful book.

This very short work, about 70 pages, is indeed a fabulous study guide for the lay person and lay leadership of a church. It takes much of the thought process about Worship Planning and some Theology and narrows it down into very short, very succinct, but very important chapters about each area of worship.

It breaks down the different aspects of worship and addresses them;
1.              The Worship Order
2.              The Gathering (Invocation, repentance and worship in song)
3.              Addressed by the Word (Scripture and Spoken Word)
4.              The Joyful Feast (Communion)
5.              Sent to Serve (Benediction and sending scripture)

They then go on to address several other aspects of worship, specifically Music and the Arts in Worship as well as special seasons of worship.

There are Chapters dealing with;
            Christmas and Epiphany
            Lent and Holy Week
            The Fifty Days Leading up to Pentecost

They then summarize some others items they call odds and ends. Finally they end with a chapter on “Is Worship Important?”

This little booklet would be a great item for church members to be asked to read during a membership class as it would give them a good overview of why the church calendar is arranged the way it is and what the purpose of worship is all about.

Each chapter in the book ends with discussion questions, so it makes it a good small group study book.

Further, there are extensive notes at the end of the book, about 20 pages worth. So, you have plenty to dig into to further any area of interest that you have.

All in all this is one of the best little books I have read in several years, it would be right up there with Greg Gilbert’s book, What is the Gospel.

Buy, read, contemplate and share with others!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Blind Spots, by Collin Hansen

First of all I want to thank Crossway Publishers and Net Galley for making an Advance Readers Copy of this book available to me for review. The book will be released on April 30, 2015. You can pre-order a copy through Amazon, Westminster Books, Christian Book Distributors or your favorite Christian Book Store.

Collin Hansen brings a fresh look at the Western Church and how we need to think and act in regards to The Gospel and our Culture. This book will be an excellent book for Pastors and Lay Leaders of our churches to read together and dialogue about the contents to make sure that our churches are “well balanced” in how we proclaim The Gospel to the world.
Hansen focuses on three categories of Christians. He believes that if we honestly look at ourselves we can find that we belong to one of these categories due to our character traits, our gifting and our call by Christ to ministry.

The three categories are:
1.     The Courage Group – those standing valiantly for the Truth (Theological group)
2.     The Compassion Group – those who stress service, listening, engagement and compassion for our culture
3.     The Commissioned Group – those committed to building the church and reaching the lost

The book is short, only 116 pages, but Hansen does a great job detailing his thoughts on these three groups and focuses on their strengths (Courage, Compassion and Commissioned) and on their Blind Spots (their weaknesses).

I was encouraged by his thoughts on the Blind Spots as he reminds us, the Church, that we need each other. We can’t go it alone. The Courageous group is important, but if they only focus on their thoughts and desires the church will fail. They need to embrace the other two groups. The same is true for each group.

As Hansen points out, any Christian who focuses on his strengths and dismisses his weaknesses, and thus dismisses the other two groups, that Christian will fail to properly proclaim The Gospel to the world.

Several quotes from the book that I found to be thought provoking:
1.     The problem with Blind Spots is that they tend to hide behind good traits. Your weakness is often the flip side of your strength.
2.     The Church must follow Christ command to love our neighbors whether or not we ever receive thank you notes.
3.     Belief that the Great Commission still applies to us today separates evangelicals from churches that have sued for peace with our pluralistic age.
4.     Commissioned Churches cannot be content with the status quo, because eternity is at stake.
5.     Unless you contextualize your mission with honest understanding of local culture, you merely add to the noise, because you will become accommodated to the spirit of the age.

I believe that this simple little book will be a revolutionary thought provoker for many churches. We need to engage our culture, but we need to be careful to not dilute The Good News of Jesus Christ. We need all three types of Christians in our churches pulling together to bring a balanced ministry to our lost world.

Read, think, discuss and decide what you will do!