Friday, October 18, 2013

Reevaluating Your Calling

I have almost always felt a call into full-time ministry. And as I've mentioned elsewhere, this calling has been a source of struggle over the years. Not in the sense that I do not want to go into ministry, because I do. Rather, for years I have felt like I was in a perpetual preparation phase. I have been preparing for ministry through my Bachelor's degree, internships, and now as I work through my Master's degree. I have recently realized that I have entered into a new phase, or at least a time of transition between phases.

You see, it used to be that I was never content with what I was doing. Maybe this was simply a character flaw, but I was always yearning for something more. Recently I realized, that for the first time in a long time, I am content. Which is incredibly ironic considering my wife and I are in one of the most  uncertain times in our lives.

Yet, I have peace. Despite not being in full-time ministry, I feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment like I have never felt before. And this is all while I am "preparing" for ministry. I sometimes feel guilty that I am content because I have this fear that I will get complacent and slip farther and farther away from my calling.

Am I where God wants me to be? If so, why do I feel guilty for not being in ministry? Is it time to reevaluate my calling, or is God taking me on the scenic route to where He wants me to be?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Favorite #AddaWordRuinaChristianBook Tweets

It's no secret: I like Twitter. I am occasionally guilty of using too many hashtags, and I especially enjoy getting in on different hashtag trends. Despite wanting to join in on the occasional hashtag hilarity, worthy hashtags are often few and far between. Most of the time the trending hashtags are inappropriate or simply awkward. Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised when a generally wholesome and incredibly hilarious hashtag popped out of nowhere:  #AddaWordRuinaChristianBook. I was even more pleasantly surprised this morning to see that this trend was still going strong.

Here is a just a small sample of some of my favorites:

Publishers and authors are also getting in on the action:

What do you think? Hilarious? Overdone? What were your favorites?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Book Review: Apostate by Kevin Swanson

We live in a culture that in many ways is hostile to the Christian faith. We have "religious freedom" just so long as we keep our views to ourselves and don't "impose" them on anyone. Some would say that very soon this intolerance will turn to flat-out persecution. The trailer for the book, "Apostate"* by Kevin Swanson hints at this very idea:

The fact that traditional values, Biblical literacy, and belief in ultimate Truth have been steadily declining is a point that no one would argue. The real question, though, is how did we get here? What happened that triggered the demise from a generally Christian culture to a humanist empire? This is the aim of Kevin Swanson's book, "Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West." He says,

Insofar as Western civilization retained a Christian worldview at its base, the foundations were sound. But when the philosophers of a new humanism introduced dryrot into the foundations that were predominately Christian, they planted the seed of their own destruction. By the end of this book, I hope the reader will fully understand how this happened.

While Swanson delves in deeper than I can summarize here, he follows a simple pattern that can be seen in "macro trends" through history. Ideas flow from "great minds" of philosophers to the universities then into the mass culture. First, "the intellectual philosophers developed revolutionary humanist ideas which they incorporated into their own lives." Second, "the great literary masters and artists incarnated there philosophical ideas in literary and art forms, which were taught in the liberal arts universities." Finally, "the philosophers of the 19th century penetrated the mass culture through mass media in the 20th and 21st centuries."

Swanson offers an enlightening look into the philosophers, theologians, and scientists that have attributed ideas that are now common place in our postmodern society. One of the most interesting sections for me was the infiltration of the education system. He says, "There is no better way to radicalize nations than by infiltrating the education systems."

It is a long book, but one that is worth the time to discuss the reality of what has happened to our post-Christian society. We desperately need to challenge the preconceptions of the "great thinkers" of our time. Check it out here.

*I received this book free from the publisher and I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I do not profit from any merchandise purchased via links provided. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Book Review: #LimitlessLife by Derwin L. Gray

We all have labels. Some we place on ourselves. Others are given to us by other people. Good, bad, and indifferent, we all have them. The real question is, what does God have to say about us? What labels does God want to place on our lives? What labels have God called us to embrace? These are the questions Derwin Gray attempts to answer in his new book, Limitless Life. He says,

Many of us are stuck believing negative messages that come from these kinds of labels because they are often stitched on our hearts at an early age, and this has limited our lives. Labels can be difficult to shed because, for better or worse, they can become our identity, and it is difficult to let go of that.

Throughout the book Derwin looks at the negative "soul-tattoos" that we have been labeled with and seeks to unpack what things God has said are true of us in His Word. When we are afraid, God has said we are courageous. When we are labeled as "Damaged Goods," God has called us trophies of Grace. And even when our lives are a mess, God has called each of us, "Masterpiece."

This book is a powerful look into what the Bible has to say about us. Jesus Christ paid too high a price for us to believe lies that will limit our lives. It is time for us embrace what God has called us to be and rip off the negative labels that have been ingrained on our hearts and souls for far too long.

As a blog special, I am giving away TWO SIGNED copies of Limitless Life. To enter for your free copy, comment below and email me at I will announce the winners next week. Get ready to live a Limitless Life!

*I received this book free from the publisher and I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I do not profit from any merchandise purchased via links provided.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Life Lessons at the Gas Pump

When I was first learning to drive, my parents always told me to round off the price at the gas pump. If the pump clicked at $21.89, I always tried to pump just enough to try to get it to exactly $22.00. This of course was to make it easy to pay with exact change. Even years later I would always try to round it off and always get irritated with myself if I got even one cent over. Then there were the days you knew I was having an off day when my total was $40.03 or higher.

One day after this happened I found myself mentally scolding myself for not hitting the mark perfectly and going over a penny or two. But then I had a realization. I wasn't even paying with cash, so why did it really matter if my total was exactly $40.00? Did it matter if it was $40.16 or even $40.73? Does the total effect the way my debit card swipes? Not in the slightest.

Additionally, the way I log my purchases with Excel makes it easy to Ctrl + F to find any purchase I've made in recent months. But if every time I fill up gas it is exactly $40.00, I would still have to wade through purchases to find the right one I'm looking for. But if one week a gas purchase is $40.16 and the next $40.73, it's much less likely there is a duplicate and makes my system that much easier. You see, the way my parents have always done things in this case was not the best way for me. Yet for years I did it that way just because it was the way I was taught.

What about you? Are there things you do on a regular basis that you're not even sure why you do? Are there things you could cut out of your schedule or customize to better fit your needs?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Uploading the Human Experience

The other day I saw this commercial. It is Sprint's new ad advertising the iPhone 5 and their "Truly Unlimited Data" plan. Check it out:

But this isn't about the iPhone or Sprint; or even about materialism or consumerism. It's about this interesting nugget nestled into the video:

"We can share every second
in data dressed as pixels.
A billion roaming photojournalists ...
Uploading the human experience."

Here we are in this global community known as the internet. We are constantly being bombarded with ways to connect via social media. "Like" my page, follow me, upvote my picture.

300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook everyday, and Instagam is pushing a total of a billion photos uploaded. We are constantly uploading our human experiences (and our cats; don't forget the cats).

A few months ago Jon Acuff posted this video in a post titled, "Something Every Parent Needs to be Ready for in 2013":

It got me thinking. Do you realize that this generation (my kids and your kids) will be the first generation that could potentially have their entire lives documented via Facebook photos? Assuming that Facebook is here to stay, when my son is 16 I could tag him in a photo of him at a year old, that's been on Facebook since he was one year old. Embarrassing my kids will only ever be a click away. But seriously, how will this effect our kids in the future? Is "Uploading the Human Experience" a good goal? What safety issues arise with this new generation of those literally born into social media?

These are just some things I've been thinking about lately. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Review: Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma

When I was working toward my Bachelor's degree at Lee University, I was constantly bombarded with 'social justice' on all sides. This group was looking for volunteers; that group was having a charity bake sale. In addition, part of my graduation requirement was to do a certain amount of 'service hours' volunteering with different groups or organizations. Honestly, the culture of good causes surrounding me kind of left me jaded. It all made me wonder whether social justice was simply a fad. I understood the need for justice (if only partially), but outside of the culture that was created there I had no idea how it all worked out in the real world. How is justice done? Or more accurately, how does one live out a life of justice? Then came along Ken Wytsma's book, Pursuing Justice.

I have to admit, when I first started reading, I had low expectations. I half expected the book to simply be about why we need justice; filled with proof texts, buzz words, and vague definitions. But that couldn't have been farther from the truth. Wytsma doesn't just explain what justice is and why it is important (and biblically mandated). He does this (extensively and eloquently), but also describes how to to do justice, and more important, how to live a life defined by justice.

I first began to understand the depth of the book when I began to page through the contents. When I saw chapters such as "Stained Glass: When Religion Gets in the Way of Justice" and "Compassion Can Kill: Wisdom and Accountability in Charitable Giving" I knew that this book would be more than just buzz words and proof texts. Pursuing Justice is not just filled with bare facts, but educated biblical exegesis, historical background, and anecdotes from his personal faith journey.

From the very first chapter my fears were eased. In it, he presents a question that summed up exactly how I felt towards the topic of justice: "If I want to pursue justice with my life, how and where should I start?" This is the point from which he starts and finishes. He concludes,

Jesus says that in seeking my life I will lose it, but in losing my lifefor his sakeI will find it. I have digested these words. I have proved them with the experiment of my own life. I have discovered happiness and joy in the paradox of giving my life away, just as I am learning to live and die for bigger things.
 Pursuing Justice has a simple, yet entirely deep premise. This is not a feel good book. In fact, many of the stories represent a world full of hurt, pain, and injustice. At times I was moved to the point of tears; at others I was filled with rage. Yet it is also a book about hope. God has called us to live and die for bigger things, and he has given us the grace to fulfill that call on our lives. At the end of the book I was left humbled, energized, and ready for a lifestyle change. Ready to live and die for bigger things.

*I received this book free from the publisher and I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I do not profit from any merchandise purchased via links provided. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Leadership = Character

Over at ViralRead they have been tirelessly covering the Menendez scandal. Sen. Bob Menendez is yet another politician involved in a probable career-ending scandal. The story has everything you'd want in a scandal: prostitution, misuse of funds, private jets, and exotic locations. But this isn't a post about politics. This is about leadership.

I read an article recently that said leadership cannot be separated from character. You cannot say that someone is a good leader that has major moral deficiencies. I struggled with this for a while. As most of you know, I'm deployed overseas. At the beginning of this deployment there was a situation where someone in leadership was caught in a moral failure and was punitively removed from leadership. Everyone was upset because even though what he did was wrong, "he was a good leader." I even caught myself saying similar things.

But the truth is, he was not a good leader. Good leaders can only lead if they have credibility, and you cannot have credibility without solid character. In his book Being Leaders, Aubrey Malphurs says, "Research on credibility has shown that, when a leader attempts to influence people, they engage in a conscious and unconscious evaluation of the leader and will follow only if they deem him or her credible." In addition, he says, "To compromise your character is to compromise your leadership and erode the trust of followers."

The point is, character is incredibly important, yet it is often one of the last things on leaders' minds. If you want to be a good leader, you have to develop solid character. If not, you may just be the next scandal waiting to happen.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Starting Again

Several weeks ago a good friend of mine from college posted a blog, “Winners Do Quit.” They quit doing things that do not add value to their life or pertain to their written goals. His blog, as well as the follow up post he posted the following day, have been weighing on my mind the last few weeks. You see, during December and January I was in between classes, and I was planning to get caught up on some things I needed to before classes started again:

  • “I really need to post a blog. It’s been too long since my last.”
  • “I really need to catch up on some non-school reading.”
  • “I really need to work through the study guide for my denomination’s licensure test.”
  • “I really need to be applying for jobs for when I get back from deployment.”

All of these were great ideas.
All of these would have added value to my life and been a good use of my down time.
None of these were accomplished.

I was too busy spending my time on things that did not add value; things that would not lead to wins in life. So, with a new set of classes underway, and a thousand different things begging for my attention, I’m starting again. I’m choosing to focus on activities that will be worthwhile. 

What about you? What worthwhile things are you working toward?