My favorite productivity tools for 2014

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I am sort of an app addict. One of my small talk questions is what new apps people are using. I love finding new apps that fit into my life and make it easier. These are few and far between. Most apps I download or use briefly I am iffy about. Those that don’t make a strong impression after a few days use get pushed aside.

Here are some of the tools I use regularly that help keep me on track and productive.

Top Blog Posts of 2014

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This year 2014 was a great year. I became more aware of God’s grace in my life and yet at the same time more aware of my need for grace. Thankful for each of you and all that you have added to my life this year. I am humbled that more people than just my mom read this blog. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

All is Grace,
Sam

Here are the 10 blog posts you enjoyed most this year.

  1. Apps that limit my child’s time on the iPad.

    So how do you limit the length of a user’s session on an iPad?

    clock app icon 1

    One easy way that this can be achieved is with the Clock app. It is
    an Apple app that should be already on your iDevice. Follow these simple
    steps below to use the Clock app to set the duration of a user’s
    session:

    • Launch the Clock app and select Timer.
    • Set the timer to the amount of time that you would like your child
      to have access to the device for (in hours and minutes). Also check that
      in Sounds (iPad) that Stop Playing is selected. If it is not select that option.
      Read full blog post…. 
  2. How We Stop Short In The Debate On Christians And Alcohol.

    The problem with the debate of alcohol is every person I have heard
    preach against it has stopped short of the real problem alcohol
    represents. In stopping short they make alcohol out to be evil when
    there is nothing in scripture or in 2000 years of church writing that
    would show alcohol as evil. Alcohol is not evil the abuse of it is. The
    inordinate reliance on it is.
    Read full blog post….

  3. My Reading List From 2013

    They say
    leaders are readers so I set a goal this year to read 52 books and I
    fell short of that goal, but here are the books I did read this year.
    Some I will add to my read yearly list, all of them impacted me in
    various ways.

    1 Lone Survivor – Marcus Luttrell

    #2 Lead Small – Reggie Joiner3 Non Profit Narrative – Dan Portnoy

    Read full blog post….

     

  4. Why You Should Read Old Books.

    I love to read. Even with my passionate desire to grow I sometimes find reading a challenge. What is even more difficult than reading books? Reading old books. I have been more intentional about reading books and reading lots of them in the past two years. One of the things I have been most intentional about
    lately is reading old books. I started by accident and by necessity
    reading old books but most recently I have done it on purpose. This is
    largely due to a C.S. Lewis quote I stumbled upon a few months back
    Read full blog post….

     

  5. Top Family Ministry Blogs 2014

    Family ministry has been a priority for churches since the 80’s but in
    the past 15 years there has been a new push for youth and kids
    ministries to be working together in sync with each other in a way that
    produces a cohesive strategy to equip and empower families like never
    before. When I started blogging 7 years ago there were only a handful of
    children’s pastors blogging. There were also a few youth pastor blogs
    as well. The desire I had for my blog at the beginning was to be to
    someone else what I wish I had when I started.Read full blog post….

  6. Self-esteem Is Ruining Your Kids.

    As a child of the 70’s I grew up
    80’s where baby boomers were loving life, loving love and loving
    themselves. This translated to every area of life including their
    parenting. The seeds of self-esteem were laid by my parents generation
    and have taken full root in my generation. It’s this idea that kids need
    to have a positive outlook in life, they need to love themselves. While
    in limited ways this can be true the pervasiveness of this idea is
    killing the collective conscience of our country and is ruining our
    kids.
    Read Full Blog Post…

     

  7. Answer Your Kid’s Direct Questions With Direct Answers.

    If we tell our kids half-truths they will find out once they discover
    our half-truths we have used to deflect or delay from tough
    conversations our kids will begin to wonder which half of everything we
    say is untrue. When you answer a question with age appropriate
    directness you remove the power of curiosity. Kids have always been
    curious the only things that has changed is the internet allows our kids
    to not only satisfy any curiosity but it feeds their curiosity.
    Read Full Blog Post….

     

  8. Free Easter Curriculum: God To The Rescue.

    I’ve shared here and here about the how and why
    leading up to the creation of a free resource for the kidmin community
    by the kidmin community. We are really excited to be able to offer it
    for free on our blogs.

    What we did was create a 5 week curriculum that unveils God’s rescue
    plan unveiled in the Old Testament and seen in action in the days
    leading up to Good Friday and Easter. I love how the clear emphasis is
    on Christ and what he did and what we can do in response.

    Read Full Blog Post….

  9. What We Can Learn From Mark Driscoll and Acts 29

    There has
    been a lot of buzz around the internet about the removing of Mars Hill
    and its founding pastor Mark Driscoll from the church network he helped
    to create Acts 29. There are ideas, theories flying and everyone it
    seems is picking a side and digging in for virtual battle.

    I won’t go into the details of the situation because that is covered
    in detail by other posts. Basically the Acts 29 Board felt sufficient
    cause for concern for Mark Driscoll, his church and the Acts29 that they
    have chosen to remove Mark and his church from any affiliation with the
    Acts 29 network.
    Read Full Blog Post….

  10. What The Gospel Demand Of Parents

    What does the gospel require of parents?

    1. Walk in Humility

    – say your sorry – – Kids have a sense of justice at
    an early age. They know when you have wronged them. They know when you
    have overstepped and overreached.

    Phillipians 2:5-8 – Christ modeled for us humility. He was God but did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage, but humbled Himself. If God can do that for us we can lead our families in humility.

    “The Key to the family functioning as a
    redemptive community, where the Gospel is the glue that holds the family
    together, is parents who so trust in Christ that they are ready and
    willing to confess their faults to their children.” Paul David Tripp

    If you want your kids to understand the gospel model humility.
    Read Full Blog Post….

     

The Ten Best Books of 2014

Here are the top ten books I read in 2014 and the reasons why.

  1. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey


    Total truth was a brilliant call “to awakening evangelical Christians to the need for a Christian “worldview,” which Pearcey defines as “a biblical informed perspective on all reality. I found this book to be foundational in how we see the world through the lens of the gospel. This book is a must read for every kid heading off to college and any youth pastor who works with high school or college age kids. The final section on the flaws in the evangelical church I found both helpful and intriguing.

  2. What’s Best Next by Matt Perman


    I have long been a fan of PeterDrucker. I have read “The Effective Executive” Numerous times. One things I felt was lacking from Drucker’s work and others like him. That was the purpose for productive living and working.Perman does an amazing job connecting practical ways to get things done to an underlying theological framework. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and plan on reading it again soon.

  3. Proof by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones


    I have read a couple of books by Jones and have enjoyed them. I was intrigued by Proof before I read it because from the index you could tell they were tackling the 5 points of Calvinism from a standpoint of grace rather than a forced acronym. Thoroughly enjoyed the book as they portrayed the Grace of God in such a profound way I found myself worshiping and filled with wonder as I read the pages of this book. This book is a must read for anyone who leans toward Calvinism. I don’t often cry when I read a book but there is a story Jones tells of his daughter that moved me to tears. Such a powerful picture of us belonging to God. It’s worth the purchase of the book for that story alone.

  4. Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering – Tim Keller


    This is one of those books that every Christan needs to read as they will encounter pain and loss at some point in their journey. Kellers treatment of suffering does all of us a favor as he so poignantly deals with suffering in such a way that it keeps us from being either trite or melodramatic when addressing the others in pain. Kellers brilliance lies in pointing to our ultimate hope which is Christ. Each chapter ends with areal life story of suffering that I found very hard to read as each one caused my heart to both wrench and rejoice at God’s goodness even if unseen. This book and “A grief observed by Lewis are the best books I have read thus far on the problem of human suffering.

  5. The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung


    If you have been a follower of my blog for any period of time you will know that I am a huge fan of Catechism. The Good News We Almost Forgot is a weekly devotional that I read as a book because each chapter was so good I couldn’t wait a week. DeYoung brilliantly,pastorally, and devotionally dives into each of the Lord’s Days as laid out by the Heidelberg Catechism. I found myself convicted regularly and sitting there after reading a chapter in an attitude of worship.The relevance of the theology in a 400 year old document is astounding.

  6. Bad Religion by Ross Douthat


    Bad Religion was a paradox because it was difficult to read and hard to put down. Douthat argues that “America’s problem isn’t too much religion, as a growing chorus of atheists have argued; nor is it an intolerant secularism, as
    many on the Christian right believe. Rather, it’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional faith and the rise of a variety of pseudo-Christianities that stroke our egos, indulge our follies, and  encourage our worst impulses.” I found it insightful enjoyed the fact that Douthat as a catholic had a great perspective on evangelical and catholic follies alike.

  7. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller

     
    I first read this book over 20 years ago in bible college. I read it again this year. Reading the same book 20 years later is interesting. Of all the books I read this year this book hit me hardest. I have been a “full-time shepherd” for nearly 18 years I find that I have become a pretty good Shepherd and at the same time a not so good sheep. As pastors we must not forget that we are sheep first shepherds second. This book does just that. Loved the insight the devotional feel and the loving truths that this book contains.

  8. Compassion Without Compromise by Adam Barr and Ron Citlau


    As a christian if you have not been asked what you believe about the issue of homosexuals and homosexual marriage yet, you will. What are you going to say? When someone you love invites you to a same-sex marriage ceremony what are you going to do? When you as a christian leader are interviewed by a reporter they will ask what you think. What are you going to say. Barr and Citleu offer an amazingly practical and pastoral book that will help you speak the truth in love. As christian we need to be loving but we can’t allow our desireto be loving to derail us from truth.

      

  9. Evangelism And The Sovereignty Of God by J.I. Packer 


    J.I. Packer is brilliant. I love his high view of both God and Scripture. In  his classic he talks about God’s role in salvation and how we cooperate with God in preaching the gospel. It is a classic on evangelism and should be read by all.

  10. Brothers We Are Not Professionals by John Piper


    I love Pipers passion. I enjoyed this book because he tapped into a passion of mine. That passion is for Pastors to be Pastors rather than savvy CEO’s. The business culture that has crept into the church has helped pastors be better leaders which has some value to be sure. But at what cost? That cost I would say is the erosion of the care of people, the dependence on Holy Spirit. In the United States we have turned the office of pastor into a profession rather than a calling. We need strong leaders in the pastorate but the price the church is paying for that leadership is far too steep and doesn’t honor God. I loved how Piper passionately calls pastors and leaders to the things that matter most. If you are a pastor I beg you to read this book. I pray that it will convict you as much as it convicted me.

 

The books I read in 2014

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This year I set a goal for myself to read 52 books. This was not to just say I did it, but as a way to push myself to read more. To grow more. This is my second year setting a goal for myself that pushed me to grow here are a few unexpected outcomes.

  1. I read less sporadically
  2. I rarely watch TV now
  3. I don’t allow myself to get stuck in bad books
  4. I read more diverse types of books
  5. I allow books I enjoy to lead me to more books I enjoy

Next year I plan to produce more and consume less. I want to read 26 books and write 500 words a day. Here is the books I read in 2014
1. A Tale of Three Kings – Gene Edwards

2. Little Bets – Peter Sims

3. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. – J.I. Packer

4. 3 Signs of a Miserable Job – Patrick Lencioni

5. The Global Achievement Gap – Tony Wagner

6. Galatians for you – Tim Keller

7. Is God Anti-Gay – Sam Allberry

8. The Spirit Filled Church – Terry Vergo

9. Why the Church Still Matters – Jon Tyson

10. The Disciplines of a Christian Life – Eric Liddell

11. Brothers we are not professionals – John Piper

12. Leaders Eat Last – Simon Syneck 

13. AHA – Kyle Idleman

14. The Racketeer – John Grisham

15. Screwtape Lettters – C.S. Lewis

16. Leadership and Self-deception – The Arbenger Institute

17. On Writing – Stephen King

18. Who is this Man – John Ortberg 

19. Dad is Fat – Jim Gaffigan

20. Romans 1-7 for you – Tim Keller

21. Conform – Glenn Beck

22. Total Truth – Nancy Pearcey

23. The Effective Executive – Peter Drucker

24. The Magician’s Nephew – C.S. Lewis

25. Turn this ship around – L. David Marquet

26. How Should We Then Live? – Francis Schaeffer

27. The Preachers Kid – Barnabas Piper

28. What’s Best Next – Matt Perman

29. Act of War – Brad Thor

30. The Black Count – Tom Reiss

31. Practicing Afirmation – Sam Crabtree

32. The Pilgrims Progress – John Bunyan

33. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

34. Proof – Daniel Montgomery / Timothy Paul Jones

35. The Mark of the Christian – Francis Schaeffer

36. Managing the Non-Profit Organization – Peter Drucker

37. Walking with God through pain and suffering. – Tim Keller 

38. A prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

39. Following Jesus – NT Wright

40. The One Thing by Gary Keller

41. Miracles – Eric Metaxas

42. The Good News We Almost Forgot – Kevin DeYoung

43. The Bruised reed – Richard Sibbes

44. Start Here – David Dwight & Nicole Unice

45. Bad Religion by Ross Douthat

46. Tender Warrior – Stu Webber

47. Weakness is the Way – J.I. Packer

48. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 – Phillip Keller

49. Taking God at His Word – Kevin DeYoung

50. Food: A love story – Jim Gaffigan

51. The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – John Piper 

52. Compassion without compromise: how the gospel freeze us to love our gay friends without losing the truth – Adam Barr and Ron Citlau

53. Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time – Jeff Sutherland

Looking to save time? Check out TextExpander

textexpander

Friend and fellow blogger JC Thompson recently told me about an application that saves you time by simplifying repetitive emails, forms or formatting of documents.

The idea behind TextExpander is simple: it substitutes something that you type (usually something short) with something else (usually longer and more complicated) in almost any situation where you can enter text. TextExpander substitutions, called snippets, can be complex and extraordinarily helpful: they can include formatted text, images, the current date or time, fields where you fill in information on the fly, the clipboard contents, and more.
– Michael E. Cohen