My Top 8 Books of 2015

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I enjoyed so many of the books I read last year to narrow the list down 8 is a challenge indeed. But if had to recommend only 8 books out of the books I read last year these would be it. Each one challenged me personally in unique ways. Each of them is well worth the time it would take you to read them. Enjoy.

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True Spirituality – Francis Schaeffer
Francis Schaeffer is amazing. I only regret I never stumbled upon him sooner. He is best known for How Shall I Then Live also an excellent read but True Spirituality has to be my favorite book by Schaeffer to date. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from a book that is a must-read for any Christian.

In our culture, we are often told that we should not say no to our children. Indeed, in our society repression is often correlated with evil. We have a society that holds itself back from nothing, except perhaps to gain something more in a different area.

There is one difference between the practice of justification and sanctification. As justification deals with our guilt, and sanctification  deals with the problem of the power of sin in our lives as Christians, justification is once for all, and the Christian life is moment by moment

When I lack proper contentment, either I have forgotten that God is God, or I have ceased to be submissive to him.

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The Republic by Plato

A sad reality of the state of our school systems is we no longer teach our kids classically. They are not taught how to think but increasingly through programs like no child left behind and common core are taught what to think. I was never forced to read the classics in school and that is to my detriment.  The Republic should be mandatory for every student before they graduate. The Republic created categories in my mind that didn’t previously exist. It’s treatment of education and politics make it a must read for any person who wants to be a productive member of society. The Republic was an excellent book. It is definitely one of those books you read more than one time.

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Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcy

Nancy Pearcy has a gift that is definitely needed in our world today. Her ability to describe and articulate what a true biblical worldview should be is amazing. I highly recommend Finding Truth and Total Truth. For any High School senior going to College this fall these books are more than a good idea they are essential.

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Preaching by Timothy Keller

Tim Keller is my favorite preacher so a book by him on preaching for me was a rare treat. To see how he thinks and where he is coming from as he communicates is amazing. I have read several books on preaching. Keller’s book is by far the best I have read, he is practical, spiritual and overall helpful. If you communicate to any size group his stuff on preaching to the heart is gold.

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A Free People’s Suicide by Os Guinness

Os Guinness is becoming one of my favorite authors. His insight and classical background give him such depth in everything he says. A Free People’s Suicide is a thoughtful critic of the American experiment from the outside in. Guinness has a genuine love of America without being blinded to her weaknesses. He is approaching the topic of America’s freedom and responsibility as an outsider so he equally implicates Republicans and Democrats alike. Really balanced and very convicting. Great book

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Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower

Loved this book by Jack Klumpenhower. It was much needed among the growing number of books for youth pastors and kids pastors. He does an excellent job of explaining the need for gospel-centered teaching and then explains how we can do that more faithful in the classroom. I bought a copy for everyone who preaches to our kids or youth.

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John Newton: From disgrace to amazing grace by Jonathan Aitken

This was a lengthy treatment of the life of John Newton. A fantastic Biography that did not gloss over the awful life that Christ redeemed. The things Newton faced were staggering. I found this biography so informative and at the same time life-giving. It challenged me to love and trust Christ more. I left with a greater appreciation of the Amazing Grace that saved a wretch like John Newton and especially me.

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The Prodigal Church by Jared Wilson

I like Jared’s writing style he doesn’t pull any punches and he isn’t afraid to say things that I am still afraid to say. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from his book.

How we “do church” shapes the way people see God and his Son and his ways in the world

It is a customary mantra of ministry that healthy things grow. And yet sometimes healthy things shrink. This is certainly true of our bodies, when we’re eating right and exercising. I mean, the formula doesn’t always work in every circumstance. “Healthy things grow” sounds right. But cancer grows

But the only thing of value the church has to offer is the gospel. I believe that one result of the emerging Experience Economy will be a longing for authenticity. To the extent that the church stages worldly experiences, it will lose its effectiveness.

What was your favorite book of 2015?

You Don’t Need To Be Theologian To Teach Kids.

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In my last post I made the case for systematic theology and why kids need it. I know many of you might be thinking that there is no way that you could teach your kids systematic theology because you don’t really even understand it yourself. Take heart you are not alone. The good news for you is there are many resources that are now available to help your kids and you understand the basic framework of our faith.

Theology is something that is scary for many parents as many of them were never taught theology because much of it was assumed when they were kids. Their parents assumed they understood things about God. The most important thing about our kids is what they think about God. Because that’s true we can leave nothing to chance.

So where do we start. I would not start with Systematic Theology for kids under 6 or 7 for them I would read them books that tell the large story of God as a Redeemer. To do that I would recommend the following books

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The Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

 

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The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung

Once kids have an understanding of the big picture of scripture the parts will make sense. When your kids are between 7 and 8 I would working through a systematic theology with them. There are three that I would recommend this list is by no means exhaustive. I have broken them up into younger, slightly older and older again this is for connivance what is important is you find what works for you family and do that.

Youngest

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Everything a Child Should Know about God by Kenneth Taylor

Young

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The Ology by Marty Machowski

Older Elementary

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Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware

Teens

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Bible Doctrine: Essential Teaching of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem

 

Looking to keep kids safe online? Check out Circle

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Today is the launch of a brand new product on the market that will have every family rejoice. Circle is managed through a companion iOS app, Circle with Disney is a tool that helps parents stay informed about their kids’ online activities and limit screen time on every device in the home, including smart phones, tablets, computers, and gaming consoles. Circle with Disney pairs with home Wi-Fi and gives parents the ability to filter content, set a bedtime for devices, and even completely pause the Internet. Each user’s profile and settings can be completely customized based on age and parents’ preferences.

If you are a parent with kids under the age of 18 you are struggling with the blessing and the curse of technology. There are many solutions out there the problem is many of them require a double-digit monthly fee. Here is where circle comes in. Not only is Circle feature rich but you pay for the unit set it up and instantly you have control over the internet in your home. You have the ability to set time limits, filter content and block ads. This happens all with a small attractive unit called circle.

To take back the internet in your home click here

Find out more about Circle now!

Key features of Circle with Disney include:

TIME LIMITS: Families can set daily Time Limits on any app or content
category they want. With Time Limits, families can customize how much
time their kids spend on each platform and set a total online time for the
day.

FILTER: Families can set individual filter levels for each family member.
Circle with Disney has four preset age-levels and allows for further
customization by platform, app, website, and content category. Families
can choose a filter that matches each user’s age and interests, filtering out
inappropriate content.

INSIGHTS: Families can stay informed about where their kids spend their
online time―by platform, category and website. Circle with Disney allows
families to see a member’s total time spent online and the sites visited.

PAUSE THE INTERNET: With the press of a button, families can pause
the Internet, disabling access to a specific device, individual, or the entire
home.

BEDTIME™: Families can create a BedTime™ for each family member
and their devices. Simply set a sleep time, when the devices will
disconnect from the Internet, and an awake time, for the morning when the
devices will reconnect.

GUEST DEVICES: Circle with Disney recognizes when a guest joins the
home’s Wi-Fi and can apply a family’s home settings to visitors’ devices.

BLOCK ADS: Circle with Disney can block ads for any user’s devices.

EVERY DEVICE: Circle with Disney knows every single device connected
to a family’s network (smart phones, tablets, computers, gaming consoles)
and gives families the ability to manage each.

Convinced? I am

Get your Circle here!

Why kids church needs rewards.

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There are no shortage of haters out there when it comes to reward systems and rewards models for kids churches. But for the past 7 years we have used a rewards system at our church called BibleBucks 2.0. It has been an amazing tool for us.

When do reward systems go bad?

  1. When they become the goal of what you do rather than a part of what you do.
  2. When we reward the wrong things.
  3. When we use rewards to supplement our lack of preparation.
  4. When we allow the teachers in the rooms to change what we reward weekly.

What you need to know about Disciplr

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Below is an interview I did with from Jeffery Kranz from Disciplr. Jeffrey blogs and speaks about the Bible, ministry, and technology. He’s the guy responsible for getting the word out about Disciplr (hence this blog!), and spends his time trying to write words, drink coffee, and eat pizza as much as possible. Check out Disciplr. .

Why should a kids’ pastor invest part of their limited budget in Disciplr?
Fair question—most children’s pastors don’t get a great deal of room in their budget. That’s actually one reason we made Disciplr: to give you more budget to work with!

Here’s how that works:
Disciplr is a free platform. It doesn’t cost you a dime to create an account or play with all the sample lessons inside. All you pay for is the curriculum you use (and some of that is free, too). And since the lessons are in an interactive, digital format, you’re not paying for publishers to print and ship it to you. Since curriculum in Disciplr is built to live digitally, you’re also not eating the cost of printing out lessons yourself. (And toner ain’t cheap!)

In fact, curriculum in Disciplr costs as much as 30% less than the equivalent print version of the same curriculum.

What other curriculum formats will be coming out for this?  
At launch, Disciplr is focused on offering curriculum for Sunday mornings: both traditional Sunday School and Large Group/Small Group formats as well as supplemental curriculum that can be used in a variety of setting such as Children’s Church and mid-week settings. Down the road Disciplr will look to increase its breadth focusing on other discipleship resources for the church.

Is Disciplr mostly a David C Cook platform or can other curriculums be added?
Disciplr was created with the support of David C Cook and Christian technology firm HelloMogo, Inc. but it was built for the church, and we believe that churches love choices. So while our store has many of David C Cook’s popular curriculum lines, because that is what we had immediate access to prior to launch, our content team is currently working with a number of curriculum publishers whose products will be added to our store as fast as we can move them through the process from print to interactive, and that is quite a chore!

And just in case any of your readers want to get their curriculum in Disciplr: they should talk to Michael Covington. It’s best to get a hold of him at [email protected]

How does Disciplr make the day to day job of a Kids or Youth Pastor easier?

In several ways:
1. The thing our users (or as we like to call them, “disciplrs”) are most excited about is how much it simplifies the curriculum shopping process. There are a few places where you can buy curriculum from multiple publishers online, but that curriculum is mostly print or digital-download, not interactive. (I wrote an article on the differences between digital-download and interactive curriculum here, if you want to know more about that.) Disciplr gives people one place to find interactive curriculum from multiple publishers—which saves pastors the time it takes to Google their options!

2. The lesson prep experience is far more human-friendly. We’re used to having our phones around us at any given moment—we don’t do that with print curriculum! That means Disciplr’s lessons are always available for quick recaps—you can familiarize yourself with your teaching material or do a quick refresher on Sunday’s lesson wherever you are. You won’t need to download a PDF to your work computer, home computer, and smart phone, either: your lessons all live in the cloud, so you can access them from any device with an Internet connection.

3. There’s also the teacher management piece. Disciplr unites the curriculum and the leaders: you can invite leaders to teach from curriculum, and a (fast-approaching!) feature will let you align lessons with dates and assign them to teachers. This model gives all your teachers access to view all the lessons—which really comes in handy if your volunteers want to swap Sundays (or if someone comes down with a last-minute stomach bug)!

4. Disciplr can also help kid and youth pastors by giving their volunteers a better experience, too. When I was a KidMin volunteer, I had to hunt down email attachments, help out with a few last-minute shopping runs, and download those PDFs to both my computer and smart phone. (AROOOOOO!) I wanted to help out with the church, but I had to reserve more time every week for handling this sort of stuff.

Why Disciplr over your competitors?
That’s a tricky one—it depends on who you see as a “competitor.”

It’s true; some publishers have mobile app versions of their own curriculum. What sets Disciplr apart is the fact that one publisher-agnostic app brings together a curriculum storefront, lesson prep and planning, and teacher management. You learn one system, instead of a new system with new logins and a new setup and a new learning curve.

But I suppose the real “competitor” is more about format: you wouldn’t want to pay for both Disciplr AND a print version of the same curriculum! If you look at it that way, there are plenty of reasons to choose Disciplr:

  • You can access curriculum on the We
  • You can access it from any Web-connected device (instead of downloading it to multiple computers)
  • It doesn’t get lost (like file downloads tend to do) or coffee-stained (like print curriculum)
  • It’s less expensive than print
  • You don’t get as many annoying emails from volunteers asking, “Hey, could you re-send me that file?”

Is this a church-specific application?
Yes, for now. Disciplr is a tool for the leaders in local churches: the folks who are teaching from curriculum. But we have some pretty cool plans for expanding it to be a tool for everyone in local churches who makes discipleship resource. So keep your eyes peeled. 😉