some of my counselors for 2017/2018


Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15.22)

And so, I deliberately, and regularly, seek out good advice and counsel from others. Some of that counsel comes to me in the form of books; the authors of these books are my advisers.

With the start of a new year at hand, I plan to surround myself with a small group of wise men. A dozen published minds and a dozen months. In fact, my plan is a two-year plan, and so it is actually more like two dozen minds and two dozen months.

bonhoefferMy 2017 group consists of: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (pictured above), Shane Claiborne, John Climacus, Peter Enns, Richard Foster, Stanley Hauerwas, C.S. Lewis, Scot McKnight, Eugene H. Peterson, Christian Smith, Christopher J.H. Wright, and N.T. Wright.

My 2018 group will be comprised of: John Barclay, Richard Beck, Benedict of Nursia, Edward Fudge, John Goldingay, Michael J. Gorman, James Bryan Smith, Henri Nouwen, Richard Rohr, C. Christopher Smith, James K.A. Smith, and Dallas Willard.

Of course, my advice and counsel won’t be limited to these men – by no means – but, I will focus deeply on the words of these.

I foresee some benefit overflowing your way from this effort in a number of ways, one small way being that I intend to share snippets of their insight and wisdom in the form of quotes each day the next two years on my Facebook page, as well as perhaps, some posted here on occasion.

Two thoughts:

(1) Do you have a plan for what you feed your head in terms of reading (aside from Scripture), and if so, what is it?

(2) Who do you grant special access to the stimulation, challenge, and formation of your thinking, and why? That is, who do you seek out to sharpen you?

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27.17)

golden nuggets from Sirach (5)


Every few days I’m posting five passages that have jumped out at me as I read through Sirach (aka: Ecclesiasticus).

Run away from sin like you would from a snake: If you go near it, it will bite you. Its teeth are lion’s teeth, destroying a person’s life. (Sirach 21.2)

People who are afraid to act are like clumps of cow manure; those who pick it up will shake off their hand. (Sirach 22.2)

Don’t grow accustomed to saying coarse things because to do so is to engage in sinful speech. (Sirach 23.13)

How beautiful is sound judgment in gray-haired women and finding good advice in elderly men! (Sirach 25.4)

The husband of a good wife is favored, and the length of his life will be doubled. A courageous wife will make her husband happy, and he will complete his years in peace. … A loudmouthed and talkative wife is like a battle trumpet sounding an attack. The spirit of the man who lives under such conditions lives perpetually in the chaos of the battlefield. (Sirach 26.1-2,27)

golden nuggets from Sirach (2)


Every few days now I’m posting five passages that have jumped out at me as I make my way through Sirach (aka: Ecclesiasticus) this time. Here’s the next installment. Read and consider.

Let those who are at peace with you be many, but let only one in a thousand be your advisor. (Sirach 6.6)

“Don’t seek political power from the Lord or a seat of honor from the king.” (Sirach 7.4)

“Don’t be timid in your prayer, and don’t neglect caring for those in need.” (Sirach 7.10)

“Don’t make fun of the uneducated, or your ancestors might be insulted.” (Sirach 8.4)

“Turn your eye away from a shapely woman, and don’t stare at beauty belonging to someone else.” (Sirach 9.8a)

this went thru my mind


Advice: Most Advice is Bad Advice by Seth Godin

“People mean well, especially friends and family, but they’re going to give you bad advice.”

God, patience, perspective, suffering & time: Waiting on the Lord by Tim Archer

“Human reasoning says, ‘Take care of it now. Bring about justice by your own hand. Something must be done immediately.’ Divine reasoning says, ‘I’ll take care of it. In my time.’ Do we have enough faith to wait on the Lord?”

Hostility & humanity: A Jolting Message by Richard Rohr

“Is this not the core historical problem that continues to justify most hostility to this day?”

Ministry & parenting: How Does a Pastor Help His Children Not Become Disenchanted with the Church or His Ministry? by Brian Croft

“Every pastor’s family is at risk at becoming disenchanted, even hostile to that church and ministry that so often takes their father away.  How can a pastor help, not hinder his children to grow in love for the church?”

this went thru my mind


Advice & opinions: Whose Opinion Matters by Ron Edmonson

“All leaders constantly hear opinions. It seems everyone knows what you should do. … Whose opinion matters?”

Anger: So You Are Angry by Dan Bouchelle

“So you are angry? Well, you might want to do something about that. That road goes to a bad place.”

Church & love: How to Love by Dave Barnhart

“I’m not sure who came up with this illustration, but I really like the way it helps me understand what Christian individuals and communities are supposed to do.”

Color: The Psychology of Color


Faith: Atheism & Belief in God: Countries Get Ranked

“The researchers looked at data from 30 countries where surveys, taken at two or more time points between 1991 and 2008, asked residents about their belief in God.”

Forgiveness: Baptism Means You Can’t Hate Anyone by Dan Bouchelle

“Accepting baptism into the name of Jesus means you have to forgive everyone. Everyone! It doesn’t matter what they have done to hurt you.”

InternetAlmost Half of Online Americans Use the Internet for Religious Purposes

“… 17% read religion-oriented blogs once a month or more … 57% of online adults under age 35 use the Internet for religion, compared to 48% who are 35 to 49 years old, 36% who are 50 to 64, and 31% who are 65 or older …”

Texting: The Problem With Texting

“Sherry Turkle is a psychologist and professor at M.I.T. and the author, most recently, of ‘Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.'”

this went thru my mind


Advice: Best Advice I Ever Got

“… we asked a host of influential leaders to share with us the wise words that changed their lives forever.”

Bible reading: Reading the Bible for Understanding and Not Just Information [quote]

“One enemy of good reading is confusion about which mode of attention is appropriate to a given book. I am certain that this very confusion makes it almost impossible for anyone to read—genuinely to read—the Bible. In both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, narrative and other more-or-less literary forms are dominant, which seems to call for a strategy of reading for understanding similar to what one might use in an encounter with, say, Homer; but these books’ status as sacred text suggests, to many modern readers anyway, that their purpose is to provide information about God and God’s relation to human beings. “Strip-mining” the Psalms, or the Song of Solomon, or even the more elevated discourses of the Gospel of John, “for relevant content” might not seem like a promising strategy, but many generations of pastors have pushed it pretty hard, as though the Bible were no more than an awkwardly coded advice manual.” (Alan Jacobs, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, p.99)

Churches of Christ: * 102,000 fewer people in the pews since ’03: Churches of Christ in decline * Why Should I Stay?

* “Another striking number: 708 fewer Churches of Christ in the U.S. in the last nine years. The nation’s 12,447 congregations represent a 5.4 percent decline since 2003.”

* “… this is an important question for any Christian Fellowship to answer: ‘why should I stay?”

Compassion: Seeing Her by Richard Beck

“Two weeks ago I was asked by our Psychology Club to share a few thoughts for their Club chapel. The theme for the chapel this semester is to share about characters in the Bible who have affected or inspired your spiritual walk. I selected the unnamed concubine from Judges 19. Judges 19 is, perhaps, the most horrific episode in the Bible. I expect this may be the first, last and only time the students hear a message from this text. I started by reading the whole chapter. When I ended it was pretty quiet in the room.”

Criticism: A Passing Thought on Receiving Criticism by Dane Ortlund

“Seems to me there are two wrong ways to receive criticism and one right way.”

Garbage/trash: What’s In Your Trash? [infographic]

“The average family of four throws out 880 pounds of food a year; that’s about the weight of an adult cow.”

Immaturity: “I’m Not Being Fed” (and other stupid things Christians say) by Brian Jones

“Show me someone who keeps whining about not singing enough worship songs, or “being fed,” or doesn’t want the church to focus on evangelism, or missions, or feeding the poor, or singing secular music on Sunday, and I’ll show you a freakishly immature Christian. The sad, and sometimes scary thing, is that 99 times out of 100 they simply don’t realize it.”

Men & women: On Jesus’ Choosing Twelve Males by J. Daniel Kirk

“According to the economy of the world, with its measures of greatness, to be the twelve is to be exemplary, in the place to lead, to exclude others from leadership, to stand close to Jesus and guard the gates of who else can draw near. And to the extent that we look to Jesus’ selection of them, and the apparent marginalization of the women, as paradigmatic for male leadership in the church, we show ourselves to be people whose minds have not yet been transformed by the very story to which we are appealing.”

Politics & race: Race, Politics, and Christianity in the American South by Richard Beck

“… sociologist Bradley Wright cites statistics that show evangelical Christians to be one of the most racist groups in America. To be sure, only a minority of evangelicals fall into this category, but relative to other Christian groups as well as to non-Christians evangelical Christians are the most likely to hold a candidate’s race against them in a political election. And as most people know, evangelicals tend to vote Republican and are plentiful across the American South. This racist strain in southern Christianity greatly disturbs me as I encounter it frequently where I live. So what changed in the South? … The American Civil Rights Movement.”

Prayer: Six Ways to Help People Pray by Michael McKinley

“Pray big prayers. Think beyond the hospital visitation list. Pray prayers that reflect God’s sovereignty over the whole world. Pray for the spread of the gospel in foreign nations; pray for an end to human trafficking worldwide; pray for religious freedoms to spring up in oppressive regimes.”

Singing: Singing in Worship – Cause or Response? by Paul Smith

“You see, we teach that our songs and prayers and sermons and fellowship are all “worship.” We go to extravagant lengths to make the “worship” meaningful. But, if we have not prepared the gift long before we arrive, all we are doing is manipulating our fickle human emotions with gimmicks, whether we use instruments, praise teams or simple acappella singing.”

Singles: One’s a Crowd by Eric Klineberg

“More people live alone now than at any other time in history. In prosperous American cities — Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and Minneapolis — 40 percent or more of all households contain a single occupant.”

Visitors: 6 Reasons Why I Do Not Attend Your Congregation by Chris Gallagher

“This is written from the perspective of a visitor. Last year, my family and I took the entire month of February away from local ministry and traveled to various congregations, both near and far, and enjoyed some time visiting. We learned much about the attitudes of congregations towards visitors and it is reflected in the words below.”

8 of my biggest mistakes as to how I’ve used the Bible


1. I blindly followed people’s advice to “use this version of the Bible because it’s the only right one.” That’s why years ago I started out with the KJV, later switched to the ASV (1901), and then to the NASB. However, language and translation, any language and any translation, are just not such simple matters. If someone ever tells you such and such Bible version is “the only right one,” they’ve given you the wrong advice for they’ve handicapped you by limiting the number of tools available to you. Such limiting advice is about as helpful as telling a fisherman they mustn’t ever fish with anything except topwater lures or telling a cook they can only prepare chicken. I enthusiastically use the Common English Bible daily and heartily recommend it to others, but I’d never claim it is “the only right one” to use or that anyone should use only it. I know the CEB’s translators would say the same. Put it in your toolbox … and use it along with other good tools.

2. I simply accepted what I was told a passage meant without researching the matter myself. I assumed good men and women of long-time faith knew what they were talking about. What I failed to factor in was the fact that we’re all human, no matter how learned, experienced, or sincere. Photocopiers were made to copy; disciples are meant to think. Faith is a journey and thinking is required. The way you’re being led to believe may or may not be right so ever trust, but verify.

3. I decided to not memorize Scripture, but to remember Scripture references instead. My simple-minded reasoning went like this: “If I want to know where something is, I’ll always know where to quickly find it.” The problems with that faulty logic are too numerous to mention, but let me just say here that while recalling references can help you prepare lessons, they won’t feed your mind, reform your life, or sustain your spirit. We need the mind of Christ, not a Google brain. How I wish I had memorized so much more of Scripture in my younger years!

4. I treated Scripture as if the lay of the land of Scripture was flat; as if every word was of equal importance. But the topography of Scripture isn’t flat. There are mountains, steppes, plains, valleys, lakes, rivers, deserts, fields, and more. While all Scripture is Scripture, not all Scripture is created equal nor is it all equally essential to me at any given time in my life. There is a supreme commandment, a second commandment, etc. I’ve done my share of “majoring in minors” and would pray that any and all would avoid falling into that man-made pit.

5. I tried to use Scripture to prove what I wanted to believe. Mind you, I didn’t do that with premeditation, it was simply a logical second step to a preceding problem (blindly accepting what I was told by others). If what I’ve been taught is undeniable, then those undeniable truths become the lenses through which I read Scripture. This is no small thing. You can only see what you see through the lens you wear. It’s one thing to use Scripture to prove what you believe and altogether another to believe Scripture and let it have its way with you and your beliefs, come what may. The former leads you away from God; the latter leads you to him.

6. I left reading my Bible to times I felt like it or felt like I had time for such. In the moments, or even seasons, of such, I would have been adamant that I had no real choice. However, looking back I can see such was simply attempts to justify my lack of self-discipline and my ability to procrastinate on even important matters. Feeding on God’s will is more important than eating is to feed your body. You don’t let your feelings or the clock be your sole determiners of your eating habits so plow through your moods and value listening to God more than emotions or your self-made life schedule.

7. I read my Bible for the sake of others, but not for myself. That is, I spent abundant time with the word of God, but did so for the sake of instructing others. I allowed the paramount importance of spending time in the word “just for me” to be crowded out by good, but lesser things. You can’t really share what you don’t really have yourself so time in the word for yourself isn’t just what’s best for you, but is actually what is best for others.

8. I agreed with Scripture, but I didn’t put it into practice. I became content to understand the teaching of Scripture and to teach such to others, rather than let Scripture teach me and then personally determine to live it out myself first. At best, this is self-deceiving; at worst it’s hypocrisy. If I know what is good, but do not do it, it is sin to me. Even rocks do the Father’s will so I mustn’t trick myself into living as dumb as dirt by not attempting to do what I know pleases my Father.

Question: What are some of the worst mistakes you’ve ever made in regard to how you’ve used your Bible?