In the seven years I have been writing on this blog I rarely post information about what happens in my personal life. I attempt to keep the blog focused on the issues you care about and what is helpful to you. Today’s post is an exception to that normal method.

On Wednesday, November 12 I was working at my desk at home when someone began banging on our apartment door. The man said the the roof was on fire and that I needed to get out of the building. I grabbed my English Bible, Hebrew Bible, laptop, and ran outside. I saw the fire was small and at the other side of the building so I went back into the apartment to grab some of our financial information and anything else I knew was important.

Once outside the second time I saw that the fire was growing. As the fire department arrived the fire grew and grew. Now, the building is damaged to the point that we will never be able to re-enter the building to retrieve our items.

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Thankfully, no one was hurt. All the residents made it out of the building safe, no firemen were hurt fighting the fire, and all pets were saved too.

Sadly, we have lost everything from our apartment which I could not carry out that afternoon. A large part of me feels that “it’s all just stuff that can be replaced,” but there is another part of my that feels connected with some of our items. These are things like my journals I’ve spent the last ten years writing in, the Bible I read for two years before becoming a Christian, letters I gave to my wife throughout the five years we have been together, rare books my grandmother provided to me, just to name a few.

This experience has reminded me that God is good and that he provides. This material world is temporary and will be judged when Jesus returns.

One of the positive experiences we have seen from this is the enormous support from people. We’ve received prayers, encouragement, and help from the students, faculty, and staff at Dallas Theological Seminary, our church (NorthPointe Baptist Church), close friends, family, both of our jobs, as well as the apartment complex which we rent from.

Some people who do not live near us have offered to help. Jen and I have created two Amazon “wish lists” as a way for people to help. One list includes items we will need for our apartment. Another list are mostly books I regularly used for school and teaching my volunteer leadership workshops.

Apartment List, http://amzn.com/w/BE3VUXY30JA

Book List, http://amzn.com/w/2MI0BP1KMLZAP

Thank you for your support and encouragement during this difficult time for us. We are grateful for you and glad to know God has and will see us through until the end.

While preparing an outline, workbook, and PowerPoint slides for a workshop this month for the Center for Nonprofit Management I have been reminded about the four things I know about effective teaching.

3 Things I Know About Effective Teaching

Photo Credit: Learning Executive

1. A teacher’s methods of teaching are only as good as his preparation.

Continue Reading…

Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman’s Story. By Mark Andrew Ritchie. Island Lake, IL: Island Lake Press, 2000. 288 pp.

Mark Andrew Ritchie group up in poverty in Afghanistan, South Texas, and Oregon. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity International University (1980). In addition to Spirit of the Rainforest he is the author of God in the Pits. After 20 years of working in the financial services industry, Ritchie turned his attention to Divinity studies and authoring two books.

Book Review of Spirit of the Rainforest

Written in first person narrative, Spirit of the Rainforest describes the life of the Yanomamo people according to a powerful shaman called “Jungleman.” It should be noted that the Yanomamo people do not use names. In the beginning of the book Jungleman says, “I have lots of names—all us Yanomamo do. But we almost never speak them” (p. 21). The book focuses on telling the story of approximately 32 years of life in the Amazon from the way they lived before the “nabas” arrived and told them of the great spirit, “Yai-Pada.” Perhaps the book is best described by Richie’s own words in the author’s addendum, “Dignity prohibits a complete description of Jungleman’s talent. Deleewa, a person of considerable humility and piety, struggled in vain to translate Jungleman into palatable English while I asked myself, ‘How am I going to write this? No matter how much I tone this man down, I still can hear the critics: “Too much sex—too much violence—too degrading of women”” (p. 239). This book is a gripping account of the wild life in the Amazon. Continue Reading…

One of the most fruitful things I do is read the entire Bible every year. In this post I share with you four ways you can read the entire Bible in a year as well as which method I prefer.

4 Ways to Read the Bible in a Year

Photo Credit: Steve Spinks

4 Ways to Read the Bible in a Year

1. 4 Chapters a Day

Reading four chapters a day as a way to read through the Bible in a year was the original “challenge” from Dr. Jeff Harrington while I was a student at Fresno Pacific University working on my Christian Ministry & Leadership degree. In our Spiritual Formation class Dr. Harrington suggested that we have a regular schedule for reading through the Bible every year. His basic suggestion was that we read four chapters a day. Continue Reading…

There is something which exists inside of your church even if you do not realize it: culture. Everyday you and the other leaders inside of your church are creating a culture. Since culture always exists and is a necessary part of the work environment you and your employees spend 40 hours a week in, it is important that you understand culture and know how to change it.

3 Required and Important Stages for Discerning and Shaping a Church's Culture

This summer I read a fantastic book by Aubrey Malphurs titled, Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture. Malphurs’ main premise is that culture in the church is important because:

  • 80-85 percent of American churches are either plateaued or in decline
  • on a typical weekend only 17 percent of the population attend church
  • many of the young people growing up in church often leave church when going off to college (p. 111)

In his book, Malphurs outlines three stages of shaping a church’s culture. I’d like to outline those stages for you with my comments as a way to help you “discern and shape your church culture.”

3 Stages of Shaping a Church’s Culture

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The only way people know of any ancient literature is by way of copies, not originals. That’s not only true of the Bible; it’s true of virtually everything else. And because we’re dealing with writings that are so extremely old, you can imagine how few of these manuscripts are likely to have survived into modern times. . . So are you ready now for the number of surviving manuscripts from the New Testament that we know about and can currently access? Fifty-eight hundred. . . The Bible is by far the best-attested book of ancient origin.

Kostenberger, Bock, and Chatraw, “Truth Matters” (pp. 111-112)

A couple of months ago I watched the movie Dead Poets Society which is filled with lessons about teaching.

7 Lessons I Learned about Teaching from the Dead Poets Society

 Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures

7 Lessons I Learned about Teaching from Dead Poets Society

1. John Keating (lovingly referred to as “Captain” by his students) was slightly obscure. He was always whistling to himself, walking in and out of the classroom at random times, and playing games with the students. In the beginning of the movie, it was clear that Captain did not fit the mold of the other straight-faced and curriculum-focused teachers. This contrast in teaching styles was clearest at the end of the movie when the principal of the school assumed Captain’s class and told the class to turn to the introduction of their textbook. The principal did not know that Captain had told his students to rip out the introduction. Furthermore, Captain had referred to the introduction of the book as “excrement” while the principal referred to the same essay as exceptional and profound. Continue Reading…

I have found that listening to podcasts and books on tape are two of the easiest ways for me to learn and grow as a leader.

5 Podcasts I Regularly Listen to in order to Learn and Grow

In 2004 I received my first iPod and began downloading podcasts. During those ten years there have probably been 50 different podcasts that I have tried out, subscribed to, and then unsubscribed. Over time there are five podcasts that I have stuck with and found most helpful to me as a leader.

This Is Your Life
Michael Hyatt’s podcast is a great weekly show that provides practical tips for leaders. Several weeks ago he changed the format of his podcast adding a cohost. I have not listened to the new format yet, but I am confident that the podcast still delivers value for leaders. Continue Reading…

In 2009 I endeavored my first attempt teaching a Bible study. It was for a men’s Bible study consisting of myself and three other men of various ages. I began leading us through the book of Nehemiah and then we spent half of a year looking at the fifteen years of David’s life before he became king.

Practices for Effective Bible Study and Teaching

Photo Credit: Mattea Photography

This experience teaching the Bible showed me two things:

  1. I loved teaching the Bible.
  2. I had to improve my ability to study and teach the Bible.

Recently I read the book, The Christian Educator’s Handbook on Teaching. It was a great book which outlined ten tips that can help you study and teach the Bible better.

1. Be a diligent Bible student (pp. 269-272).
Every teacher should carefully study the Bible because the Bible helps the teacher grow spiritually, it guides him, guards him against sin, and encourages the teacher to move toward spiritual maturity. Continue Reading…

Creativity is an essential quality for a leader. A leader must be creative to see future possibilities, make things come real which were once only ideas, and think of ways to solve problems.

10 Easy and Essential Ways to Be More Creative

Photo Credit: Mike Beauregard

While reading the book, Creative Teaching Methodsauthor Marle LeFever provided a list of ways to be more creative and tell better stories. Even though the book focused on creativity within Bible teaching, I think these 10 principles can be applied by any leader.

10 Easy and Essential Ways to Be More Creative and Tell Better Stories

1. The creative process of a teacher starts with preparation (pp. 23-25).
Preparation is the ground work that a teacher does to become an effective teacher. This ground work includes learning how to study the Bible, lead group discussions, and use audio/visual tools. Continue Reading…