Review: “Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching”

Ok to be perfectly clear on this and up front.  I do not enjoy Hebrew, but I enjoyed reading this book.  Using Old Tesament Hebrew in Preaching did challenge me to be dilligent in continuing my Hebrew studies as well as give me hope that I might use my Hebrew skills for years to come.  It is a very down to earth, practical and motivating book.  I applaud author Paul D. Wegner for bringing  such a relavent and timely book to my aid when I was doubting the relavance of Hebrew in my future ministry.

The book is made up of five brief chapters that are full of encouragement and motivation for Hebrew students to press on in learning the language.  All along the way Wegner is sure to provide tools, references, and recomendations to support and encourage the student in his or her pursuits.  Above all else, he challenges the reader to press forward in studying and using a language that can be very confusing and tricky (at least to this student).  He does a great job of taking a very large challenge and stripping it to bite sized chunks.

The retail price is $17.99 (Paperback). It is also available at places like Amazon.com for $7.70 (Which is a great deal). I give it 4 stars.

3 Things I Learned From My Mentor

Early on in my ministry I had the privilege of being mentored.  It all started when I told my old youth pastor that I was going to college to become a student pastor.  He told me to find someone doing student ministry that I could sit in with and learn the ropes.  I quickly found an old friend who had been a counselor at camp and started helping him do student ministry.  At the time I didn’t realize that I was being mentored.  I would stop in his office for about 4 hours each Monday afternoon and talk to him (like he didn’t have anything better to do).  He graciously poured into me and helped me grow in my walk with God and as a pastor.  Here are 3 things I learned from having a mentor and I hope to pass on to those I mentor…

1. The Importance of Shepherding and Not Just Planning Events.

Lots of times young student pastors will fall in the rut of planning events with no real end game in sight.  It’s easy to plan what is cool or what will get kids motivated, but difficult to sit through strategy and scrap cool ideas for ones that will help you bring kids closer to God.  I was given pretty free rein, but the questions that came out of those mentoring sessions really helped me gain a shepherding perspective early.

2. To Remember that  Parents are Still the Number One Influence in a Students Life

I had several great ideas that would have made most parents sweat.  Lots of young student pastors make mistakes with parents early on.  They either take the kids off and forget to tell parents, talk bad about parents, or simply forget to include parents in the information process.  Parents are a vital part of genuine students ministry.  At the end of the day the students in my ministry aren’t coming home to my house for a Thanksgiving feast, they are coming their home.  Parents for good or for bad are primary disciplers in a students life.

3. Doctrine is Important

I was 18 when I started as a student pastor and while my doctrine was sounder than most 18 year-olds I knew, it wasn’t always completely sound.  It was important to have a mentor who could easily spot holes in my teaching method or in my thoughts about God.  I was often confronted gently with scripture and reminded that true thoughts about God have their origin in the Scriptures.

MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Tangle Christian?

The video above is from a friend of mine.  He has a different version out now.  Its a great call for followers of Jesus to wake up and realize some of the contradictions in their lives.  We claim to know Jesus and want to demonstrate love toward others, but how often does that  stop at the window of Social Media (Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)?

I am constantly disappointed by people who claim to follow Jesus but consistently live like they do not know him in how they interact on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  For example… I consistently see a “Christian” teenager type up a rant about someone else or even a “Christian” adult make an ambiguous jab at someone in their status update only to have a nosy friend ask, “what happened?” and they spill the beans about how selfish they really are and how wronged they feel about something or someone.  This is the kind of thing that should be done in private (Matthew 18) between the offended and the offender… not all over Facebook.

What are some ways that you have seen Social Media (facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc.) be used to proclaim the message of Jesus?

What are some ways that you have seen “Christians” act in unappealing ways on Social Media?

What are some basic guidelines you would recommend for living your faith out on the internet as well as in person?

Don’t forget to view the video above and listen to the song.

Book Review: “Living Life in the Zone” by Kyle Rote, Jr. & Dr. Joe Pettigrew

Living Life in the Zone: A 40-Day Spiritual Game Plan for Men by Kyle Rote, Jr. and Dr. Joe Pettigrew is a great book  for men who are looking to jump-start their devotional life.   Through out this book the authors challenge the reader to be a real man of Christian Character. The authors share keen insights and interviews from legendary sports figures from around the world of sports.The book is intended to be read in 40 days.  Each section is comprised of seven days worth of material that follows a common theme for the week.  Sections are geared around the various relationships in a man’s life such as his wife, children, friends, and work. ( The last section is noticeably shorter at 5 days.)

The author’s have taken careful pains to maintain a rigorous order of steps for each day’s reading.  Making each devotional similar in style, but unique in substance.    Overall the book is very readable, very organized, and authentically sports oriented.

I especially enjoyed reading this book as a devotional in the morning.  It took only a few minutes to read and provided real insights with great questions.  I can see it being used as a stand-alone devotional or used by a group of men for accountability purposes.  My over all impression was that it was a great book.  The only reservation that I have is that the scripture section at times can seem a bit light due to the topical nature of the book.

This is a very practical and readable devotional book for men.   Living Life in the Zone is an excellent resource. The retail price is $14.99 (Paperback), and is available at places like Amazon.com for $10.19. I gave it four stars.

Disclaimer: As a blogger I received a free review copy from the Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program  (http://brb.thomasnelson.com/ ).  There was no requirement to give it a positive review, just for the reviewer to call it like they see it.

3 Annoying Things I’m Glad My Parents Did When I Was a Teenager.

So its been a while since I’ve been a teenager.  I was a teenager in the boring decade of the 90’s.  Long before Text Messaging, Facebook, YouTube, Ipods and  really cool video games (I grew up with Mario brothers and Contra on the original Nintendo) .  While lots of things have changed around the teenage world since then, there are somethings that just won’t change.  One of those things is how important it is for parents to be involved in the lives of their teenagers.

Here is a look back at 3 things that were really annoying to me as a teenager that I now look back and am thankful for.  I guess at the time my parents were more concerned with being a good mom and dad, than in winning my one vote popularity contest.  I thought they were clueless… It turns out they had way more common sense than I thought.

1. They Insisted on Regular Weekly Family Time.

As a teenager I often had “more important” places to be or things to do.  It usually involved hanging out with my friends or talking on the phone to the girl I really liked (again, this was before texting and facebook).  My parents didn’t mind these activities, but they set some pretty stiff boundaries around our family time that often conflicted with my desires.  I can still remember to this day my dad telling me I had 5 minutes to get off the phone or I had to be back by 7 because of family time.  Our family time most often existed of sharing prayer concerns, reading scripture, and praying… At the time I thought it was boring.  I now look back at this time as the center (the one place we could all come back to) that kept our family together during some rough times.

2. They Set a Reasonable Hour for Curfew.

My parents would ask about what I was up to.  At the time I just thought they were being a little overbearing and didn’t really have a life of their own so they had to make mine difficult.   I now realize they just really cared and wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing something stupid. I would tell them about the activity… A movie, ball game, etc. and they would tell me a reasonable time to be home.  Sometimes my curfew was midnight, sometimes it was 7PM.  It mattered to them where I was and what I was doing.  I could call and renegotiate if plans changed and you got invited to someones house or wanted to stop by McDonalds with your friends  (back then you had to use a pay phone or someone’s home phone).

I remember one night I stayed out hours after curfew because I was explaining to a friend about how to become a Christian.  I thought for sure my dad would be overjoyed and understand the “rule breaking.”  But when I got home.  He was awake and waiting on me.  I shared with him what happened and he was genuinely happy.  Then he told me I was grounded because I could have called.  At the time I thought he was a jerk.  Now I realize that he expected me to be responsible.  He expected more out of me than I was expecting out of myself.

3. They Stated the Obvious.

When I was 18 years old and about to head off for college I made my parents sweat by dating a girl that already had a daughter.  My mom sat me down and shared the obvious.  Jon, “She has a kid.” (I told her that was a little obvious).  Then she said, “God may call you to marry someone who already has children one day, but do you really think you are ready to be a father?”  She was looking beyond my interest to the interest of the young woman and said, “She is no longer looking out for just herself.  She is looking for someone to be a father to her daughter and fill a role her life.  You were just telling me about going to college in another state.  You are going down two different paths.  You won’t be able to go to college and stay connected with this family.  You don’t need to lead her on.”

I guess I knew all that, but it took my mom stating the obvious as she had done so many times before.  And it wasn’t just over making bad decisions like investing 2 weeks of my life in a relationship that wasn’t meant to be.  I remember my parents telling me I did the right thing and affirming me over and over through my teen years.  Their stating of the obvious facts in an authentically loving way made all the difference in the world.  Sometimes I didn’t want to hear what they had to say, but part of me knew they were wiser than I gave them credit for.

I am thankful to God for good parents who stood on some unpopular issues when I was a teenager.  My response wasn’t always joyful, but I knew deep down that my parents cared about me.  I look back now at the boundaries that my parents set up around me.  I pressed against them quite a few times, but mostly to know that they were there.  During the times when life was chaotic and stressful in our family the boundaries were one way that I knew I was loved.

Resolutions for a New Year

I have 3 main resolutions for this next year.  I actually have a LIFE plan with a lot more detail, but that’s for another blog post.  After having a brief conversation today with a stranger who is dreaming about one thing and doing another I decided that I should set in stone some serious goals for the next year.  Here are mine… What are yours?

1. Relate better as Husband and Father

Not that I think I’m doing a terrible job, but I’ve seen too many husbands and fathers drift from their duties over time.  It is really easy to imagine a loving relationship with my wife 5, 10, and 20 years from now, but the truth is that dreams don’t always create reality.  Having a good relationship with my wife and children will take time, intention, and discipline.  I have a strategy in my Life Plan, but its a little personal to share here.

2. Get into God’s word more (both personally and as a family)

Our pastor keeps a blog and comments on a chapter of scripture each day.  I usually keep up with that and read a few other passages each day.  I am also looking at creative ways to be in God’s word more as a family.  My wife and I used to read a chapter of scripture each day together.  When our daughter came along it was a little more difficult to keep her involved and so we shortened it to a few versus during family devotion time.  Now that she is almost 4 we are going to pick up something similar using a new tool for devotions.  My daughter is also old enough to start each day spending some time in God’s word.  Though she isn’t able to read yet I was thinking of moving her nightly Bible reading with me to the morning time (we have been working our way through a picture bible of the New Testament).

3. Live Healthier

This involves changing eating habits and making physical exercise a priority.  It also involves creating a better schedule and sticking too it.  I’ve learned that with planning and intention I can do more in my life with the time I have (this also involves planning for interruption).  We’ll see how it goes.  In my LIFE plan I check up weekly to see how I am living.  I’ll share more about that later… but how about you?  What resolutions do you have for this next year?

My Top 5 blog Posts of 2009

I’ve been blogging right at a year now.  I really didn’t get serious about it until later this year some time around September.  My original purpose was to open the door to share the gospel and encourage others in their relationship with Jesus Christ.  So far I have been blessed beyond imagination to start conversations and interact with people I haven’t seen in years or have never met face to face.  I have lots of plans about blogging in the new year, but before we go there, I thought I would do a little research and share some of the most popular posts of this past year.

1. 3 things I’d tell my teenage daughter after watching “New Moon”

2. A Few thoughts on Fatherhood

3. My Story (An introduction) … You can catch the rest of the series by following the links

4. Why Santa Clause Doesn’t come to Pensacola

5. 3 keys to a good Disciple Now Weekend … You can catch the rest of this series by following the links

My goal for 2010 is to refine my blogging to three main areas.  Based on the response to these blog posts and others I hope to focus on Family, Ministry, and Book Reviews.  While none of my book reviews independently made the top 5, I had several that were close and book reviews do make up a great deal of my traffic.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to try some new things in 2010 like contests and giveaways.  I look forward to the new year and all that it has in store.