Okay, I did it. At the start of this calendar year of 2013, I set a goal to read twenty-four books by the end of the year. Having just finished the thirty-seventh book as we near the end of this year, I am thankful for many things:
1. For the teachers who taught me to read – it is one of the greatest gifts a person can be given.
2. For my mother who instilled in me a love to read as a young boy. My wife and I are trying to do the same for our children.
3. For friends (specifically ministerial friends) who encouraged me in my reading by recommending a book or sending me books.
Before I share the list of books that I read, allow me to give you general thoughts I had as I set goals for my reading. First, due to much of my commute being on a train, I decided to set a goal higher than I had reached previously. I have never had the luxury of having so much reading time, so in hindsight, my long commute did end up being a blessing. My thoughts were that reading a book every two weeks was quite aggressive, but doable. Second, in Evernote, I compiled a list of books in order that I wished to read them. This did several things for me. It kept me on track. It also helped me order them in categories and not read too much of one genre of a book. Although I did add a few books throughout the year that were not on my list, the list helped me focus on my goals. Third, I always tried to keep a highlighter on hand to highlight those items and truths that stood out to me.
Continue reading “Books I Read in 2013”
According to the most recent report (2011) by the World Health Organization, the average male in the United States lives to the ripe old age of 76 years. That is almost 10 years longer than in 1960. Now I realize that not everyone will live to be this age. That is the average – some will live longer and some will die much younger. The Word of God makes it very clear that our life is like a vapor (James 4) – here today and gone tomorrow. King David of Old Testament times stated that he realized “that there is but a step between me and death.”
Not long after I turned thirty-eight years young (yes – I am still young), I resigned the pastorate of New Life Baptist Church in upstate New York. I had pastored there for nine wonderful years. Due to several mitigating circumstances (that is for another post), I felt it best that I step away from full-time ministry. A young preacher friend of mine called and asked me some questions concerning my decision. I remember telling him the following: “Nathan, I am thirty-eight years old. I consider this to be the halftime in my life. The average man in the US lives to be somewhere around 76. There are some areas in my life that I need to make adjustments before I start the second half.”
Continue reading “Halftime Is Important”
One of the best ways to show a genuine concern and love for others is to ask people questions about their family relationships. This past week, I asked a co-worker what she was doing to celebrate Mother’s Day. The question immediately evoked a visceral reaction. As happens all too often, this lady and her mother did not see eye to eye and she definitely was not going to see her or celebrate Mother’s Day with her own mother.
After apologizing and lamenting the current state of her relationship to her mother, I mentioned something to the effect that I always try to help people reconcile. She made it clear to me that she had attempted many times to reconcile in the past with her mother and it was clear her mother had no intention to reconcile with her. Thereby, no Mother’s Day celebration was going to occur for this lady on Mother’s Day!
While the above scenario is a quite dismal one, it is far from uncommon. Reconciliation is a difficult road to traverse and for too many, a road that is untraveled.
I love the first definition that Noah Webster lists for reconciliation:
RECONCI’LE, v.t. [L. reconcilio; re and concilio; con and calo, to call, Gr. The literal sense is to call back into union.]
1. To conciliate anew; to call back into union and friendship the affections which have been alienated; to restore to friendship or favor after estrangement; as, to reconcile men or parties that have been at variance.
Continue reading “The Hard Path to Reconciliation”
Community. A word that you hear discussed at length in different circles. You hear about your community on the local TV news broadcast. Often, there is an entire section in the local newspaper entitled, “Community.” And then there are churches and Christians who speak about “reaching their community for Christ.”
Lately, I have thought about this idea of community. As usual, I decided to look up the meaning of community as defined in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. Here is what I found:
1. Properly, common possession or enjoyment; as a community of goods.
2. A society of people, having common rights and privileges, or common interests, civil, political or ecclesiastical; or living under the same laws and regulations. This word may signify a commonwealth or state, a body politic, or a particular society or order of men within a state, as a community of monks; and it is often used for the public or people in general, without very definite limits.
3. Commonness; frequency.
On the whole, I personally believe that Bible-believing Christians have been largely ineffective at reaching our communities for Christ. I wonder if it is because we “dart” in and out of the communities we are trying to reach. We are so careful in not becoming like them, that we spend very little time in “common interests, civil, political or ecclesiastical” or “commonness” as Mr. Webster defines it.
Continue reading “Not Just Reaching the Community Around Us”
During this calendar year of 2012, I have been reading the Psalms unlike I ever have before. My plan since the start of the year has been to read the same Psalm two days in a row and meditate on that Psalm. In addition, I have been reading the Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon concerning each Psalm. Not only did Spurgeon comment on each verse in this literary treasure, he culled commentaries as far back as the 1500’s and included thoughts and comments from authors unheard of today. Talk about phenomenal insight!
Recently, I have noticed how dependent David was upon God. I find this fascinating because here you have a very successful man (even from a young age), who did not rely on his own strength, money, status, or fame. He truly poured out his heart to God on a regular basis and made known his dependence on God. It was as if David truly did believe that God was the only one who could see him through.
So many Christians today (including myself), rely on so many things other than God. Continue reading “God, a Rock, and a Bear”
Charles Colson recently died and went to heaven. For those of you not familiar with Mr. Colson, he was famous (or infamous) for being a Watergate operative under Richard Nixon, served time in prison for his part in Watergate, and then founded Prison Fellowship shortly after his stint in prison (see recent story published by World Magazine here).
What a great tale of a life that was headed one direction and then turned about-face and headed completely the other direction! It reminds me of a person who is unsaved. He is heading one direction (hell) and then meets Jesus and is born again. He is now saved and heading the other direction (heaven).
The Word of God plainly states that if a person is truly a Christian, their life will change:
Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Continue reading “A Bad Man Takes a Good Turn”
When does one know when you should fight against someone or for someone? Well, too often, we fight against those whom we should not – our spouses, our children, our parents, our co-workers, fellow church members, and so on.
Under the Old Testament law, God had established what we call the “eye for an eye” law. In other words, if someone has wronged you, then they deserve the same thing back. And then Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) came and upped the ante. He taught something contrary to what our old nature wants to do. Read below:
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
What Jesus taught here is what I call “graduate-level” Christianity. Continue reading “His Enemy, His Life”
I recently read that great verse in Proverbs 24 which states, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again:…” One of the thoughts that my wife and I strive to ingrain in our children is that of not giving up.
Our two youngest boys have been playing baseball this summer. Due to the generosity of some people at our church, they are able to play in a summer league for most of the summer. Although our boys have never played baseball in a team setting and are learning many fundamentals of the game, one thing they have been learning all of their life is to not give up. Whether it be in a wrestling match, a baseball game, or that of the most challenging class they are taking at school, I want them to learn to give it their all right through to the end. So many young people today will not run as hard as they can to first base when they hit the ball to the pitcher – they give up. Too many young people when falling behind in a certain class or in a certain grade – they give up.
Continue reading “A Burning Bridge To Safety”