What goals and dog food have in common.

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I remember once doing an object lesson where I took a can of beef stew and removed the label and then cut a dog food label off of a dog food can and taped it to the can of beef stew. I opened the can of beef stew and started eating it. All the kids thought it was dog food. Kids were grossed out and my illustration was more powerful than the point that accompanied it. The kids had no idea what I was talking about. The girls were grossed out and all the boys when home and tried to eat dog food. Don’t try this illustration I beg of you I had a few gagers and at least one sympathy puker.

We do the same thing with goals. We take something we hate and know we need to do and put a different wrapper on it hoping that will make a difference and mostly we get frustrated and confused. Don’t make your goal this big awesome amazing goal and then fail to put steps in place to make it happen. If you don’t set goals correctly they can often do more damage than good, sort of like beef stew illustrations for small children.

Here is what I think every goal should be. 

1. Measurable - You need a trigger to tell you on a daily/weekly basis that you are doing good or need to work harder. One of my goals this year is to read 52 books. (In addition to reading my bible daily, that side note is for Jonathan Cliff) I know I need a book a week if I fall back I know what I have to do to push on.
2.  Clear - Attaching a number helps but isn’t necessary. Saying I want to read more never works. How much do you want to read by when.
3. Realistic – Saying I want to read 365 books in a year sounds awesome right? The problem is I will never do it, that is if I want to stay married, and keep my job. A goal is only is powerful as it is achievable.
4. Difficult – No one gets anything out of setting a goal they can reach without any effort. Getting to the playoffs isn’t the goal of the New York Yankees they do it almost every year it’s winning the World Series that gets them going. If your goal is not a challenge it isn’t worth celebrating.
5. Celebrated – This is the one thing we so often forget. We achieve a goal and then move on to the next one so often we don’t take time to reflect on the journey and celebrate the victory. Such a huge step. Last year I read 44 books I missed my goal but read way more than I did the year before. I took time to celebrate that and then I started working on next year how can I reach my goal. What do I need to learn? How can I do better next year?

 

The 10 best books I read this year.

I set a goal for myself this year to read 52 books I ended up reading 42, even though I didn’t reach my goal I read more books than I typically did because I had an agressive goal. Here were the 10 best books I read all year.

The Meaning of Marriage

Meaning of Marriage

This was by far the best book I have ever read on marriage. Practical, insightful and challenging. This book is a must read for every  married couple as well as every sigle adult. Kellers chapter on singleness was the best chapter I have ever read on singleness. So powerful and so challenging.

 

 

 

 

Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer
Loved this book. Was so inspired by the faith, trust and passion for the Gospel. The scariest thing for me was reading this book and seeing the startling similarities between the US and Germany. It was so encouraging and challenging reading Bonhoeffer’s life. I pray that I have the same clarity of thought and conviction of faith he had.

 

 

 

Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

 

One of the biggest challenges most churches face is ministry silos. It’s awful but most churches are made up of ministries that are far more loyal to each other than the overall vision. If a church staff is going to accomplish what God has called them to accomplish takes hearts that beat together and eyes that see the same thing.

 

 

 

Death By Meeting

death by meeting

 

Death by meeting was a fantastic read. In ministry much of your life is spent in meetings learning how to hold a good, productive meeting is essential no matter who you lead.

 

 

 

 

The Reason for God.

The Reason for God

Loved the reason for God. I am not a big apologetics fan.  However I Really liked how Keller clearly articulated the main objections people have to the gospel. There is much of it I plan on re-reading.

 

 

 

 

 

Life Together

life together

 

This was the first of many Bonhoeffer books I plan on reading. What a fantastic gem this is on community. There are many books out there that talk about small group and community. They have lots of value but if you work with small groups or in forming the community aspect of your church do yourself a favor and read this brilliant dissection of true Christian community.

 

 

 

Gospel Powered Parenting

Gospel Powered Parenting

 

Gospel Powered Parenting is easily one of two best books on parenting I have ever read. Loved how he explains parenting in light of the gospel. He explains that the grace of God can only be truly understood in light of the wrath of God. I think I underlined something on each page of this book. Such a good book.

 

 

 

The War of Art

The War of Art

 

The War of Art was fantastic. It has a bit of language in it, but if you are a creative you need to read this book. Pressfield does a masterful job of explaining the primary reason we don’t write, create and innovate. He explains how to push through it and create what you have always wanted to create. It was very challenging  There isn’t a day I don’t face resistance and there isn’t a day I don’t think about what Pressfield said to do to overcome that resistance.

 

 

A Tale of Three Kings.  

A Tale of Three Kings

This is one of my top 10 books of all time. I try and reread this book every year. If you are a young leader its a great reminder of how to respond to the authority God has put in your life. If you are an older leader is a great reminder how to lead in a way that insures you do not create an environment that is conducive to rebellion in the hearts of the young leaders you lead. Really such a great book. Short, quick, powerful read.

How the gospel informs our pain.

GloriusRuin

I recently finished reading Tullian Tchividjian’s new book Glorious Ruin. It was a fantastic read. In this book he talks about how our understanding of the gospel changes how we view suffering.

On page 17 Tullian says this.

For the life of the believer, on thing is beautifully and abundantly true: God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be himself for you.
In other words, our ruin may not ultimately spell our undoing. It may in fact spell the beginning of faith. And in the end, that is enough. Gloriously so.

For me one of the things that lead me to the understanding of the gospel was a series of painful events that, even though I had been saved my entire life I had no answers to. lt reveled to me on the idols that I had been holding on to was my family. In the course of the past 5 years I have come realization of the power that pain plays in the life of a believer. How we view pain, what causes pain and where we turn when we experience pain all are very tell as to what we ultimately put our trust in.

There’s nothing like suffering to remind us how not in control we actually are, how little power we ultimately have, and how much we ultimately need God. In other words suffering reveals to us the things that ultimately matter, which also happens to be the warp and woof of Christianity. Who we are and who God is.
Page 110

Tullian does an excellent job. Discussing the problem of pain from the context of his own pain. I loved how Tullian continued to bring everything back to the message of the cross and the power of Christ.

A theology of the cross…..understands the cross be ultimate statement of God’s involvement in the world this side of heaven. A theology of the cross accepts the difficult thing rather than immediately trying to change it or instrumentalize it. It looks directly into pain, and “calls a thing what it is” instead of calling evil good and good evil. It identifies God as “hidden in the suffering.”

We have a savior that suffered in our place. He understands suffering and it is in our suffering that we can preach a message of the grace of God to a world that so often see Christians react to pain in such unhealthy ways. I love how John Piper puts it. “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him” God is after his own glory more than our comfort. So appreciated Tullian’s take on pain, suffering and the gospel. Definitely a beneficial read.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes.

“In the beginning God created man in his own image, and ever since, man has been trying to repay the favor.” Reinhold Niebuhr
Page 38

At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. What you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics, every action is met by an equal and opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so will you sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff….I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know what I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
Page 48

Shiny, happy Christians are insufferable.
Page 57

(On his perspective of accountability groups) such groups start with the narcissistic presupposition mentioned earlier – that Christianity is all about cleaning up and doing your part. They focus primarily (in my experience almost exclusively) on our sin, and not on our Savior.
Page 61

The tragic irony in all of this is that when we focus so strongly on our need to get better, we actually get worse. We become even more neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our gilt (instead of God’s grace) makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.
Page 62

Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking in 2012 found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the happier they perceived their friends to be and the sadder they felt as a consequence.
Page 65

Job’s unraveling isn’t seen as wrong or sinful, in fact, it’s emotionally realistic.
Page 67

“We were promised sufferings, not the absences of suffering. We were promised suffering. They were always a part of God’s program. We were even told blessed are they that mourn.” C. S. lewis
Page 81

Rather than face the underlying reasons for our distress (or look outside of ourselves for some relief), we attempt to leverage our pain for reward. Suffering becomes another way to justify ourselves, another form of works righteousness – a competition just as grueling as the obedience one.
Page 86

Through the fall, self-reliance has become our default mode of operation.
Page 110

Martin Luther on sin “Mankind turned inward”
Page 114

The truth is suffering does not rob us of joy, idolatry does.
Page 127

The Gospel is not a message reserved for those Sundays when you’re encouraged to bring your unbelieving friend. It is the only message.
Page 129

We are all Christians and human beings at the same time. This means that the Old Adam is always on the prowl, scrounging for some new Law by which to justify himself apart form Christ And he dies hard! If the assumption from the pulpit is that conversation is a one-time only event, the messages will revolve around what the Christian needs to do, rather than what Christ has done.
Page 130

People minister out their own suffering not in spite of it.
Page 139

Pain and suffering loosens our grip on this temporal life.
page 141

Character is demonstrated more by our reactions than our actions.
Page 146

Suffering has a way of stripping all resources away from us so that in the end, all that we have is the only thing that matters: the approval of God based on the accomplished work of Jesus.
Page 148

Thomas Merton once said, “The truth that many people don’t understand until it is too late, is that the more  you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller things begin to suffer you in proportion to your fear of being hurt. Suffering exposes what we build our lives on to give us meaning, and what we hope will bring us freedom.
Page 156

When Jesus is with you in suffering, you can have full assurance that you have a friend that has been though it all, just as you have. He may not deliver you form the pain and the loss. He might not get you out of the mess, but he’ll walk with you through it.
Page 159

I don’t know what pain you are facing but the thing I have come to learn and am still learn Tullian points out so well in this book.  When he says “Trust in God, not explanations from God, is the pathway throughout suffering.” I truly enjoyed this book I hope you will as well. Here is the like to get it at Amazon.com.

(I was provided a free copy of this book to read in advance and provide my view of the book, I was in no way encouraged to write a review that was influenced by either the author or the publisher.)

7 answers you need to hear from award winning author Sally Lloyd-Jones

thoughts to make your heart sing

Sally Lloyd-Jones has written an amazing new book called “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” it is an amazing follow up to her best selling book “Jesus Storybook Bible” We have had Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing for a week and it has already lead to conversations about faith and the supreme value of Christ. Every time I read one of Sally’s books to my kids I’m not sure who gets more from what she has written me or them.  She was gracious enough to allow me to ask her a few questions about her new book that was released October 9th.

 

How do you see Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing and Jesus Storybook Bible dovetailing together?

The JSB (Jesus Storybook Bible) tells the great story of the Bible–the magnificent story under all the other stories of the Bible–The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. And at the center of that story is the Rescuer.

TTMYHS (Thoughts That Make Your Heart Sing) I think (at least my hope and prayer is) takes the child by the hand and gently introduces them to what Corrie ten Boom called, ” the Fantastic Adventure In Trusting Him” (The Rescuer). Faith. What it looks like in everyday life.

What made you want to write this new book?

My niece was the inspiration. She was 8 at the time. And almost overnight, she went from being a vivacious little girl full of life to a quite hidden child. Even her voice changed–into a very quiet voice you could hardly hear.

And we found out she was being bullied at school. I wished she had a book that she would want to have by her bedside, a book she would look forward to reading, a book no one would have to make her read–but that she would choose to read–a book that would tell her what God says about her instead of what these bullies were saying.

And so I wrote the book for her–and every child like her.

How can parents best leverage this book?

I’d love parents to be free to just let the book be the child’s book–without attaching any should’s or ought’s to it. Perhaps the child will want to share it with the family. Let them lead in that. That’s what I’d love to see.

Having said that, I think it’s great to read it together as a family and wonder aloud together about the questions it raises. I wrote the book deliberately to inspire wonder and open up the child to questions–I didn’t write it to try and give all the answers. (I would encourage parents to let the wondering happen–and not feel they have to come in immediately with answers. The best thing a book can do, I think, is engage the child and get them thinking… And you know the definition of a boring book? One that does the work of the reader for them!

What is the target age range of this book?

Initially the publisher had an age cap. But I asked for them to remove it and instead say “6 and up”–because I had a hunch that grownups would like it too… and sure enough that’s what we’re hearing which makes me very happy… so it’s 6 to 106! : )

Very few books provoke me to tears but both Thoughts That Make Your Heart Sing and Jesus Storybook Bible do that for me as an adult. I still to this day cannot read washed with tears without choking up. Is that something you did on purpose or did it happen on the way? Were you targeting kids and got adults by accident or did you intentionally target both?

That’s a high compliment. And while I don’t do it deliberately, I’m coming to realize that unless I write from the place that moves me, it won’t move the reader. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader” didn’t Frost say that? And what did C S Lewis say? That a children’s book that can only be read by children isn’t a good children‘s book in the least.

As a writer how do you overcome resistance? How do you get new ideas?

I think it has a lot to do with trust. And getting out of your own way. If you think it’s all about you and you coming up with everything that’s a very different place to work from than if you think it’s not all about you–and you discover the book rather than create it…and you’re offering back to the One who gave you everything to begin with. It’s worship rather than performance.

When I read your books and listen to Dr. Keller speak the thing I take away is that both of you are excellent “Distillers” is what I call it, of the gospel. So often especially for kids the gospel is “simplified” and in the simplification the power and the beauty of the gospel is lost. How do you do this so well? What advice can you give to kids pastors and student pastors to do this better?

It’s very easy to make this mistake. And we’ve all done it. After all the Bible is a “grown up” book and by its very nature, if we are to reach children, we’re going to have to simplify it. But in our effort to simplify the Bible for children, we often drill it down into a moral lesson. We have to be alert and vigilant against this. The Bible isn’t a moral lesson–it’s above all a story.

The other thing we need to constantly remind ourselves of is this: being child-like isn’t being childish. Being simple isn’t being simple-minded. Being simple is distilling down to the core truth and expressing it in words that the young can understand. What children need from us are not silly voices. What they need from us is to take them seriously. And we show how seriously we take our audience by how much time we prepare.

It takes longer to be shorter. Blaize Pascal apologized for writing a long letter–and said that he didn’t have time to make it shorter. It takes hard work and thought to reach children. And for children, the standard needs to be higher because the responsibility is greater.

Thanks again to Sally for time thoughtfulness and for the amazing Gospel centered tools to help our kids find Jesus more valuable than anything else on earth.  Head over to amazon right now and your copy of Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing you will thank me later.