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I like Giving

Brad Formsma is the creator of ilikegiving.com, a website viewed in more than 165 countries, which inspires people to live generously through its short films as well as a platform for all to share their experiences in giving. Brad and his wife, Laura, have three children and live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Of course we all know that “it’s better to give than to receive” and perhaps if you just knew that simple saying and lived by it – you would have no need for a book like this. And yet it possible that the reason why people don’t know how wonderful “giving” can be is that they’ve just never truly done it. Sure, we all give birthday presents and gifts from time to time – but often times we do it with the unwritten understanding that those same people will one day remember our birthday as well.

But if we were truly people who “liked” giving… then wouldn’t we live as givers and never expect anything in return? Of course this also means that we don’t get upset or hurt when we don’t get anything in return either.

In other words, we become people who give…. purely for the joy of giving. There seems to be this notion that you have to be rich to be generous. We say things like, “If I made a little more money, I would love to help other people.”

But if we truly felt that way… wouldn’t we help people now? The bottom line is we either love our money and ourselves… or we love others and we want to help them.

Formsma’s book is a wonderful collection of inspiring stories that is sure to give practical advice about being a generous and helpful person. It’s not a long book either, the chapters are smoothly broken down and easily digestible.

While the book is sold as a Christian based, book and several times Brad alludes to his faith and the teachings of Christ, it never hits you over the head with an over extended use of Bible verses.

Thank you to Waterbook Multnomah for this preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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The Adam Quest

Tim Stafford is a freelance writer and Senior Writer for Christianity Today Magazine. He’s written more than twenty books, both fiction and non-fiction. His latest is just out: The Adam Quest: Eleven scientists who held on to a strong faith while wrestling with the mystery of human origins.

This book is for anyone who has ever said that science and faith are opposites. Each chapter of this book tells the story of a different research scientist who attempts to address all of the “hot topics” of young earth vs old earth, geology, paleontology, creation, evolution, intelligent design and more!

In each chapter Stafford uses his skills as an interviewer to bring out the personal stories and questions each of these scientists has in an informative and open discussion.

However, I don’t know that this book tries to “answer any questions” or “settle any debates,” I think this book better serves as a conversation starter and an opener for anyone who is interested in this field or who has questions.

All that to say is the book might not appeal to “scientists” or people who have already devoted a lot of time and study to this field. I think this book better serves as a discussion starter and begins the process of bringing faith and science together.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson for this preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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The Question that Never Goes Away

This lenten season, I decided to teach the book of Job to my congregation, which means I took the obvious route and decided to think about “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Philip Yancy’s new book “The Question that Never Goes Away” addresses this very primal question.

Why?

Why do tsunamis happen and why do planes crash into buildings? Why do people die before their time? And why do gunmen storm into school yards and shoot little children? And then – if these things happen in our world – WHY does God allow them? WHY doesn’t He stop them? WHY does it seem like there is so much evil in the world?

Back in 1997 Yancey wrote a book called “Where is God when it hurts” and since that time he has been invited all across the globe to share his perspective on the all-loving God who allows human suffering. This new book, “The Question that Never Goes Away” is Yancy’s sequel and his reflections since writing that first volume.

Filled with relevant and recent topics, Yancey does a terrific job attempting to offer solace and comfort in a world that seems out of control.

Yancey has an easy to read “story-tellers” voice and this would make a great gift for that certain someone in your life that is climbing a difficult mountain, or enduring a darkened road. Well recommended.

Thank you to Zondervan for this preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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The truth from the fake

I decided to read my bible more in 2014 and so as an experiment, as I read through the scriptures each day, my goal is to use my blog to journal a devotion or a thought each and every day. Yep the goal here (if all goes according to plan) is to write a something each day and end the year with 365 sermons ready for 2015.

Today’s Inspiration:

Numbers 16:4-5

…When Moses heard it, he fell on his face,  and he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the Lord will show who is his,and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him.”

Yesterday I wrote about Korah’s rebellion. In a nut shell, the people step forward and complain that Moses is in charge and they ask him, “who died and made you boss?” When Moses hears these words, I love his response.

“We’l let God decide.”

I think anyone of us would take a defensive posture and start to defend ourselves. It’s natural. It’s what we do when we feel attacked. But Moses has the wisdom to see, that this isn’t an attack on his leadership, it’s an attack on God’s decision to make him the leader. So Moses says, “If you think God made a bad choice placing me in charge, then we should go to Him.”

In other words, if you disagree, put it to the test.

And this is a good lesson to learn, just because your leader said it, or a popular preacher said it, or because it’s in a book – that doesn’t mean you have to just accept it.

1 John 4:1 says Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

So how do you do that? How do you “test the spirits?”

That word “test” here in the Greek means “to try to learn the genuineness of something by close examination.” It’s the same way that you’d “test” a new bill to make sure it’s not counterfeit. And really, how would you do that? Are you a currency expert? Have you spent your life examining the nuances of federal printing?

Probably not. In fact, if a cashier ran her little “magic pen” over your crisp $20 and she told you it was a fake, you’d probably believe her, right? I mean – why wouldn’t you? Sometimes faith and religion can be a lot like that. I have known people who have read books supposedly about Bible history and come to me with questions because this book “claimed” to be telling them the truth. Or church goers who have talked to missionaries that have come to their door, or other Christians who have gone away to a retreat only to listen to a speaker who seriously messed with their faith.

I once even had a friend who argued that he didn’t need a church, because he could learn everything he needed from books.

How are you to know? How can you filter the truth from the fake? How do we try to learn the genuineness of what we believe?

Well, like 1 John says, we put it to the test. We should be a student of the Bible. That means we should evaluate all speakers, teachers and preachers by God’s word. Do not take what they say at face value. That means, if someone says that they’re right and the Bible is wrong – that’s a clear sign that something is off.

Paul says in Galatians 1:8 “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”

So if someone tries to tear down a long held doctrine you have always believed was true, if someone tries to lessen Jesus’ authority as Messiah, if someone tries to convince you that there is “more to do” in order to be saved – those are all warning signs!

In effect if you read, hear, or see anything that contradicts the Bible, run away! If it contradicts God’s word, then you’re going to have issues.

What if you can’t tell if it contradicts the Bible? Like we said earlier, you’re no expert – now what do you do? Well, you have two more tests. First of all, prayer. Tell God you’re stumped and ask for revelation. Don’t you think God wants you to find the truth? He doesn’t want you to be confused, so give it to God in prayer.

And third, ask a trusted teacher. Or if you can, ask two! The more voices that can weigh in on the matter the better. In other words, before you adopt some new morsel as doctrine – put it through the ringer.

You wouldn’t pass on a piece of gossip or news you heard on the internet before checking to see if it was factual would you? (wait, would you?) So you have to put doctrine through the same filters.

1. Bible

2. Prayer

3. Trusted teachers

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Who died and made you boss?

I decided to read my bible more in 2014 and so as an experiment, as I read through the scriptures each day, my goal is to use my blog to journal a devotion or a thought each and every day. Yep the goal here (if all goes according to plan) is to write a something each day and end the year with 365 sermons ready for 2015.

Today’s Inspiration:

Numbers 16:1-3

Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men.  And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”

This is where the phrase, “who died and made you boss?” came from. Maybe you didn’t say this when you were a kid, but we said it all the time. It was usually when one of the kids started telling the other kids how we were going to play. “You do this, and I’ll do this.” I guess adults could use the phrase to, but it seems a little immature.

The irony of Moses’ situation is, here he has been the leader for a real long time and he has a history of being the guy who talks to God and yet some of the crowd has the nerve to question his authority.

This brings up the question of ordination and leadership. What is ordination? Ordination is a power that the church gives to its leaders as a symbol of authority. Ordination typically is recognized that it comes from God first – and that the church merely “recognizes” the ordination.

Acts 7:10 God gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

Notice God ordained Joseph with wisdom and goodwill and then Pharaoh ”recognized” God’s touch and gave Joseph actual leadership authority.

So the problem that Moses seems to have is that his leadership is no longer recognized by the people. In his situation, it probably stemmed from jealousy. In the passage it says, “why should you be in charge, when there are plenty of Godly leaders among us?”

But the truth is, these accusers seem to be questioning God’s choice of Moses, which is a scary thing to do. And it may have been in how Moses led, he wasn’t always the perfect leader. Moses made plenty of mistakes. Which raises the question, if you are in leadership now, how might you continue to “lead” and exercise your authority without drawing heat from those who you shepherd?

A few bits of advice:

1. Reward success and offer encouragement. You are not a one person show. None of us could lead if it were not for our ministry teams and volunteers. Make sure you have a system in place that offers encouragement to those who do the daily grind.

Hebrews 10:24 says, Encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

2. Punish neglect, laziness and disobedience. This is a tough one. As a church leader we think that our first instinct should be to offer grace and forgiveness and that’s true, but sometimes avoiding making the tough call can be seen as a leadership weakness. Don’t allow your staff or volunteers to bulldoze you – you are the leader. If someone does not “get in line” with your leadership, they are disobeying the scriptures.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

3. Correct directions when the ship veers off course. As the leader, you have the wheel. That means when the ship starts to veer, or you see the masses beginning to loose focus, your job as the leader is to “correct.” Ultimately the bride of Christ should be pursuing Godly objectives, winning people to Christ and caring for the world.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

4. Sometimes you have to “throw people under the bus.” That sounds harsh, but there is a real leadership lesson here. Sometimes there will be voices of dissension and mutiny within your organization and nothing will silence them. There are people who are toxic and they are hell-bent on division. Suffice it to say, they are not your “fans.” Of course we should try to do everything we can to win them over.

Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

But if the person seems to have an agenda that goes beyond just a grievance or something that can be “worked out” then they have to go.  Jesus continues…

But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

5. Have a mentor. There is nothing more smug that a leader who isn’t led themselves. If you have no human authority that you submit to, then you are not practicing what you preach. Even Moses went to his Father-in-law Jethro for counsel. Admit that you don’t know everything and find a wise person you can sit beneath and allow yourself to be led.

Ephesians 5:21 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise…Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

6. Be fair. Another way to say this is – don’t have favorites. As a leader you have to exercise an attitude of justice and fairness. Someone who has favorite people or shows favoritism to certain groups draws lines in the sand and alienates other groups.

Proverbs 21:15 When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous

7. Be clear. I think sometimes leaders can be a little fuzzy with their expectations and with their goals. It’s hard to follow a leader who hasn’t communicated effectively. A rule I like to adopt is “over communicate.” How many different ways can I get “the word out?” Email, Facebook, Sunday announcements, mailed home newsletter, twitter, insta-gram (it’s amazing how much social media can help you- and it’s free!). Use pictures, use words, use meetings, discussion groups, posters, even music! Be as clear as you can be and you will find that your message will become more well received.

Proverbs 15:7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge

8. Be realistic. I know the temptation is to sometimes step into a leadership role and present some grand idea to your flock. “We’re going to reach 4 thousand people by next year!” Wow, that sounds like a grand goal and it may even be what God is telling you, but sometimes unreasonable or wild instructions can be overwhelming and defeating for people. For some, hearing a goal or an instruction that sounds out of reach, will cause them to throw up their hands and walk out.

Start with small obtainable goals. And then quickly reward them when those goals are reached. Another thing is know your congregation. If you get to know the people you are leading you will better know what “they can handle.” Who knows, you may have a few people who love crazy unreachable goals, it only makes them try harder! Know that those people are rare – and most people would rather you gave them reasonable instructions.

In other words, if your choice is to start slow, or to hit the ground running. Start slow.

If your choice is to lead people by the hand or to kick down the doors and start pushing… well, you know the answer.

9. Give reasons. When I tell my son what to do, as his dad, I am allowed to say “because I said so.” However, that is not a good reason with those who follow you. Your authority is not a wall you can use to push others forward. This piece of advice goes hand in hand with “be clear.” Leadership rarely should involve “secrecy.” So when you are communicating what you expect, give the reason behind your actions. If it means you have to be open and transparent – go for it. People like to know “why” they are doing what they are doing. Otherwise, how will they measure success? If you gain a sense of satisfaction when something is accomplished, those who follow you should to.

John made it very clear why he wrote his book, it wasn’t because he was the authority, he did it to bring glory to God.

John 20:31 “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

10. Be humble. Jesus said famously in a leadership seminar

Luke 14:11 “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

I think when the mob with pitchforks knocks on your door and they’re shouting, “Who died and made you boss?” we have to adopt some of the blame for that. People who are led well and led clearly, rarely question authority. Leadership is a privilege, not a right. Each us in leadership should realize what a huge blessing and responsibility we have.

 

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