Book Review: The Maxwell Leadership Bible

The Bible is full of examples when it comes to leadership.  As a Christian it would only make sense that there be a Bible devoted to the issue.  After all, we are all leaders of some kind.  Whether at work, home, or in our churches there are circumstances in which we are a leader.  John Maxwell has been a pastor of a large church, and he is also one of the most sought after speakers and authors on the topic of leadership.  His notes about leadership in this volume are second to none.

The Bible itself is the New King James translation of scripture.  The translation itself is great, and the only qualm I have is that the deuterocanonical books are not included (I’m Catholic…what can I say).  The notes in this Bible are amazing.  As previously stated, Maxwell has notes and articles on leadership throughout this volume.  He lists the 21 laws of leadership, 21 qualities of a leader, a detailed index that point to leadership issues, as well as over 100 biographical profiles.  If you are a leader of any kind, and we all are, this is a great addition to your library…if only for the notes and articles alone.

[Note:  This book was received free of charge from Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.]

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3 Ways To Share The Gospel To Culture

-Featured Guest Post by Jeff Perry-
Presenting the gospel has always been a recurring topic among Christians. I asked a handful of individuals what the gospel was in their own words?

The gospel helps us pray, and get into the Word more and become more like Christ.”

The gospel directs our hearts to love as Jesus did.”

The gospel saves us so we can glorify God

The gospel leads us to remorse and salvation.”

Do you see the confusion? Look again and notice how these answers are EFFECTS of the gospel. Each answer using an action verb; helps, directs, saves, and leads. Paul say’s we are saved by Grace not by works.

What Is The Gospel? The Announcement Of Jesus

  • Creation couldn’t save itself, so God came down in the flesh of Jesus. The promised One (Gen 3:15) to save back His people. Jesus lived a sinless life and willfully went to a cross as the propitiation (In place of) death, the wage of sin. Not only did He sacrifice Himself as payment for sin, Jesus proved His sacrifice was enough with the resurrection. We can be confident Jesus paid the price towards a holy God. By faith, we reunite to God through forgiveness because the debt has been paid on our behalf.

The fullness of the gospel goes beyond understanding and reasoning. Psalm 147:5 “Great is our LORD and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.” The overlying principle is God’s availability and willingness of reuniting with those who want too.

1, Know The Gospel

We just covered our first step to apply the gospel to culture, knowing the gospel. How can we give something we don’t have? Misunderstanding the gospel will result in a misrepresentation.

2. Know The Culture

This leads us to our second step, contextualization. This is a fancy word that implies, “To know the moment.” In the book Center Church by Tim Keller, this is a continual theme. His definition is best.

“Contextualization is giving people the Bible’s answers, which they may not at all want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them.” ~ Tim Keller

Contextualization is translating and adapting the communication and application of the gospel to a particular culture without compromising the meaning and details of the gospel itself.

  • This does not mean we are surrendering the gospel and changing Christianity to fit within the world view. Instead we adapt the gospel to a particular culture or audience.

In other words, contextualization confronts and completes each society’s cultural account with the gospel as the solution.

3. Share It

The best way to share the gospel to culture, is to share the gospel to culture. Let us be intentionally active. Steps 1 and 2 are meaningless unless it is used. In military terms, we can know the mission and the target, but without activating the missile the mission fails.

How can you be intentionally active within your culture?

~Grace & Peace

 

More Information

Jeff Perry is a writer at Absolute Aspiration.  The goal of his work is to encourage others to share the Gospel of Christ to a hurting world.  You can follow Jeff on his website or on Twitter.  He lives with his wife and three children in Buffalo, New York.  They attend church at the Chapel in Cheektowaga.

Book Review: Paul and His Team

No matter what capacity you have in life you have heard of leadership.  Leadership is something that influences every aspect of our life.  Whether it be work, home, church, or a volunteer activity leadership is something we are involved in.  Leadership involves providing a clear vision, the ability to share the vision, and giving the tools needed for one to succeed.

When we think of Biblical figures there are many leaders, but the Apostle Paul emerges as a leader par excellance.  When he established churches he gave the tools needed, he followed up, provided guidance, and dealt with some very difficult situations (the situation in Corinth comes to mind).  In his new book Paul and His Team:  What the Early Church Can Teach Us About Leadership and Influence, author Ryan Lokkesome evaluates the leadership of the Apostle Paul and helps us apply it to out lives today.

This is not a scholarly textbook, but is written for the average person in the pew.  The author breaks down the lessons that Paul provided then in easy to understand terms.  Not only that, but he provides real world guidance on how to apply the skills that Paul taught.  In describing Paul’s leadership ability the author writes, “We will see qualities like humility, self-sacrifice, and radical grace at work.  This stands in stark contrast to much of the leadership culture today, which often has a strident, boastful tone to it-even in Christian circles” (page 19).

Overall this book is a good one on leadership and gives some decent insights.  I rate it a 4/5.

[Note.  This book was provides free of charge from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]

The Apostle Thomas

The Apostle Thomas is someone who brings up mixed emotions among Christians.  There are even non-believers who have heard of him.  Thomas was not among the other disciples when Christ appeared to them, and as a result Thomas said that unless he puts his fingers into his side he will not believe (Radmacher, page 762).  This one statement would define Thomas for all of history, and give him the moniker of “Doubting Thomas.” 

            Is there more to Thomas then this moniker of distinction?  There is very little written about him.  In fact throughout the whole of scripture only twelve verses specifically mention him (1) Matt. 10:3; 2) Mark 3:18; 3) Luke 6:15; 4) John 11:16; 5) John 14:5 6) John 20:24; 7) John 20:26; 8) John 20:27; 9) John 20:28; 10) John 20:29 11) John 21:2 12) Acts 1:13) (Baker, 1101).  There are many of these verses that capture the essence of the Apostle’s character.  We learn about his great faith and leadership, what a disciple is, and how to fulfill that calling just as Thomas did.

            We have already determined that Thomas was an Apostle of the Lord.  It is interesting that we never see Thomas mentioned in scripture outside of the group of disciples.  Matthew 10:2-4 reads, “The names of the twelve apostles are these:  first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector, James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”  John 21:2 reads, “Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.”  What differences do you see between the two verses?

            There is a couple interesting things about these two passages.  Matthew gives a listing of the twelve disciples while John does not.  In regards to the Gospel of John and the others it is important to mention the order of the names being presented.  Matthew has Thomas listed seventh among the twelve; while John has Thomas listed after Peter every time there is a listing of disciples.  It was not uncommon during that time to list people in order of importance.  Matthew had virtually no part in the Gospel narrative of Matthew.  In John’s Gospel, Thomas is listed right after Peter, and Thomas plays a pivotal role in John’s narrative. 

The Gospel of John is also the only Gospel to refer to Thomas as “Dydymus.”  Out of the eight references to Thomas John refers to him four times as “Dydymus.”  This term is actually what the name of Thomas is in Greek.  The term actually means “the Twin.”   Some scholars suggest that ‘Dydymus” is the legitimate name of Thomas though there is little evidence to support this theory (Comway, 413). 

            As stated before very little is known about Thomas.  Seven of the twelve disciples were fishermen, and Thomas may have been among them when Jesus told them to follow him as read in Mark 1:16-20.  When or where Thomas was called to be a disciple is not made clear in any of the four Gospels.  In fact it almost seems like he appears out of nowhere as part of the twelve, but whatever the reason was for Thomas to be made a disciple his role is understated.  What kind of disciple was he?  What is a disciple?  Was he the type of person that did his job and stayed out of the limelight?

            In its most basic definition a disciple is someone who follows the Lord, and does his or her best to follow God’s will for their life.  If we have proclaimed Christ as Lord then we are counted among the disciples, or followers.  In fact, scripture now has given us the term of a “priesthood of believers.”  Yes we are all disciples, but do we need to do the will of the Father to be a good disciple?  To this question I answer with a resounding YES!  Christ himself said “those that do the will of my Father are my brothers and sisters.”

            In the case of Thomas maybe he was a very good disciple, and only had one incident, and that is when he doubted the resurrection of Christ. The Gospel of John gives a great outlook on the leadership of Thomas that is often overlooked. 

                        The scripture passage that most shows his leadership is John 11:16.  The English Standard Version says “Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  The New Living Translation is straight to the point and says, “Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let’s go, too-and die with Jesus’.  The background to this passage is found in John chapter 10 when Jesus and the disciples are attending the annual Feast of Dedication, which is also known as Hanukkah.  In John 10:24 the Pharisees confront Jesus and demand that He tell them if he is or is not the Messiah.  In John 10:30 Christ responds with, “I and the Father are one.”

            This simple yet profound statement by Christ answered the Pharisees demands, but were they happy?  They demanded to know if he was the Messiah.  Christ answered them by saying that He and God are the same.  The Pharisees started accusing Christ of blasphemy and wanted to stone Jesus.  John 10:31-33 says, “The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.  Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me’?  The Jews answered him, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

            As stated previously Jesus escaped the stoning situation, and He and the twelve find refuge outside of Jerusalem.  Around this time word comes to Jesus that his friend Lazarus has died.  We find this passage in John 11:1-15.  Jesus wanted to return to Bethany that he may pay His respects to Lazarus.  Upon hearing the disciples tried to talk Jesus out of returning to Bethany.  John 11:8 states, “The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and you are going there again’?”  The disciples were terrified to return to Bethany (Radmacher, page 764).  After all the Jewish leaders just tried to murder their leader for the charge of blasphemy.  There is little doubt that they feared for their lives as well.  After all they might very well have been executed as heretics for believing that Christ was the son of God.  Here stood Christ who wanted to go pay homage to his friend Lazarus.  He wanted to go comfort the relatives, and continue his mission on earth, but the disciples were discouraging him from doing so.  That is all except one disciple.

            John 11:16, “So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us go, that we may die with him’.”  The New Living Translation says it a little differently.  It says “Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let’s go, too-and die with Jesus’.”  While the other disciples are grumbling among themselves and telling the Lord not to do something Thomas steps up to the plate.  He says if Christ is going to die lets support him, go with him, and if we die so be it.  Thomas was a leader among the disciples that saw the overall picture of Christ’s mission and wanted to do everything he can to lend his support.  This is the kind of leadership that Jesus was looking for in his disciples (Comay, 418).  Though the Lord was human he knew what each of their futures held.  He knew that eleven of the twelve would suffer martyrdom, but Thomas was the first to speak up for Christ and show his true leadership and courage.  This leadership and courage would lead him to ministry in India where he would suffer martyrdom by having a spear thrust into his chest (Comay, page 418).

            Are we willing to be like Thomas?  If we look back on our lives we will see plenty of times where we were like the other disciples.  It may be denying that we go to church so our friends will not think we are strange.  It may be standing up for someone who is wrongly accusing another.  There is no limit to the ways that we discourage the Holy Spirit from being manifest in our lives.

            Through all of this there is hope.  No matter how many times we hide.  No matter how many times we say we do not know.  No matter how many times we sin we can read this story about Thomas.  Thomas was in the company of disciples such as Peter, Andrew, and Matthew.  These great men who history have been adorned with many accolades, and Thomas steps up at the most opportune time.  His willingness to go when no one else wanted to say that he would go if the Lord was going.  He was going to be there to support Christ in any way he could even if it meant giving his own life in the process.

            Are we willing to give this sacrifice?  If we are passionate about getting souls into heaven then we should be.  There is a person in your office that is hurting, there is a person in your neighborhood doing drugs to escape some sort of pain, and we have the answer.  The sisters of Lazarus were greatly grieved when their brother died.  Jesus not only wanted to go to see Lazarus, but to comfort and empathize with the family.  What if no one stepped up to say “lord I will go with you.”  Are you willing to show leadership and courage to go where the Lord wants you to go?  Are you willing to admit that you are a follower of Christ?  Are you willing to let your life reflect that commitment?  Are you willing to share the love of Christ with those that are hurting?  If not you are being like the other disciples, and not being like Thomas.  Thomas has a bad reputation for not initially believing the resurrection, but he showed leadership and commitment far before the other eleven disciples did.  What would the other apostles do if they were in his position?  He showed discernment and did not want to be lead astray by false teaching.

 

 

Works Cited

Arnold, Clinton E., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Volume Three, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2002

Baker, Walter L., Zuck Roy B., Blaising, Craig A., Volume 2 of The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1985

Concise Bible Dictionary.  Wheaton, Ill:  B&H Publishing group, 2008

Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995

Ignatius Catholic Commentary. San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 2010

Radmacher, Earl, Allen Ron, &House Wayne H., Compact Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson Inc., 2004, 807.

 

 

Book Critique: "Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High Impact Leaders." By Dave Earley

        INTRODUCTION

Prayer is something that sounds ominous to many people.  Some people think that it requires a great amount of theological training, but in reality it does not.  Prayer is essential to one’s relationship with God.  Without prayer the relationship is struggling.  It is no different than a couple who is married and only one does the communicating.  Sooner or later the relationship will wither, and in this case it us who are to blame.  Prayer is defined as “Dialogue between God and people.  Prayer will lead to greater communion with God and a greater understanding of His will[1].”

A greater communion with God and a greater understanding of His will is something that every believer should be striving for.  It has been the goal of every Christian since Biblical times and the early church, but for some reason we struggle in modern times.  1 Thessalonians 5:17, states “Keep on praying[2].”  Other translations say “Pray without ceasing.”  Prayer is the lifeline to an effective Christian life, and Dr. Earley strives to point out ways in which we can improve on this area of our Christian walk.  As Christian leaders we have developed some bad habits over the years, and Dr. Earley’s work “Prayer:  The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders shows us how to break those habits.

                                    SUMMARY

What is the key to leadership?  If this question was asked to America’s top leaders we will get many answers, but one that may not be on the list is prayer.  One of the “Most powerful ways to influence others spiritually is through prayer.  Therefore, to lead effectively by influencing others for God, Christian leaders must pray[3].”

There were some surveys taken about Christian Leaders and prayer.  One survey revealed the average pastor prays seven minutes per day.  Another said that 80% of pastors pray fifteen minutes per day[4].  Very few churches are growing, in fact many are declining in size, many pastors are discouraged and some have taken their lives.  Dr. Ealey poses an interesting question to all of this.  Could it be because of a lack of prayer?  In my own life I have used the excuse that I do not have enough time to pray, but Dr. Earley points out that we do not have time because we do not pray.  Prayer saves time.  God is able to do much more in one second then we could do in a week.  To say we don’t have time to pray is to not understand it.

Prayer is our greatest spiritual weapon and nothing ministry wise can be done without prayer.  This is why we must make time to pray.  Dr. Earley stresses the importance of making an appointment with God and keeping it.  He states in chapter two, “I have learned that if I don’t pray first thing in the morning, I often don’t get to it.  I have learned that if I start my day off in prayer, the rest of the day always goes better[5].”

We all have busy lives, and they are too busy not to make time for prayer.  Prayer is a source of spiritual strength.  It is a place where we can go to spend time with our creator, and join into communion with Him.

In Chapter three Dr. Earley outlines the importance of praying for others.  Dr. Earley states, “God gives us a burden, a holy concern, for those we are called to lead[6].”  If we are not praying for those entrusted to us do we really care?  By praying for them we are not only interceding, but we are building a servant’s heart.  In chapter four Dr. Earley also states the importance of having others pray us.  We need prayer.  When we are leading others it is no time to put on a front and pretend that everything is ok.  Those you are leading will love you more and being honest with them.  The enemy is always attacking those who lead the flock of God.  Prayer is the ultimate weapon to repel him.

In chapter five Dr. Earley states, “Each month over two thousand pastors quit the ministry never to return[7].”  Burnout is a real issue and it effects those in ministry just as those in business.  It is important to practice spiritual stewardship in this regard.  As a leader it is very tempting to take the problems of those around you and make them your own.  This temptation must be avoided and the problems of everyone must be taken to God in prayer.  Whenever we feel the pressure of the world coming around us it is a good time to pray.  Prayer helps us focus our mind and focus on what is really important.  As 1 Peter 5:7 says, “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you[8].”

Chapter six is a chapter devoted to the importance of fasting in the prayer life of a spiritual leader.  There are different types of fasting.  One can skip food for a day, one meal, or not doing certain activities.  Dr. Earley then lists twenty significant passages of scripture on the subject of fasting, and the benefits from it.  It is quite the impressive list, and is argument alone to implement the practice.  For those of us who have never fasted Dr. Earley provides a preparation list later in the chapter which is very beneficial.

In Chapter seven Dr. Earley tells us, “High-Impact leaders pray differently than common folks.  They pray with greater boldness.  They come to God with confident courage[9].”  There are several promises in the Bible.  Out of the 7,478 promises many are a promise to answer prayer.  We must be confident when we pray.  When we pray for the lost we must be confident that God will bring that to pass.  If we are not confident we are telling God that we do not have the faith that it will happen.  We must be confident as we approach our Lord in prayer.

Just as we have different personalities there are different types of prayers.  God made us with a personality, and he wants us to use.  In Chapter eight it is recommended that we use different prayer styles when we pray.  This also has the effect of keeping our minds fresh and focused on prayer over the long term.  One model is the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus laid out for us.  It is a good blend of praise, petition, and confession[10].  The next model is the A.C.T.S model which stands for Adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.  These models are good to ensure that was are balanced in our prayer life.

In Chapter nine Dr, Earley discusses the importance of adopting best practices.  There are many heroes of the faith who had fantastic prayer lives.  We should set out to model what they did so we may benefit from their expertise.  The Apostle Paul, Charles Spurgeon, and George Mueller had prayer lives that can be emulated.  We also have the example of Christ who would regularly go of by himself on a quiet retreat to pray.  Dr. Earley then goes into great detail on how we can go away on a quiet retreat ourselves. Regarding retreats Dr. Earley states, “The benefits of such a personal prayer retreat are manifold.  Stress is reduced and life is placed back into perspective.  Spiritual tanks are refueled[11].”

The last chapter of the book, chapter ten, is a summary of sorts.  A checklist is provided from each chapter for us to see the key highlights.  These highlights will assist in implementing the keys Dr. Earley hit on during the course of the book.  There is little doubt that God spoke different things to different people throughout this book.  Some questions asked are “What are the big things God wanted me to learn?  What are the main areas God wants me to focus on now?  What am I going to do about it?  What specific steps of application will I follow through on?[12]  The book is about establishing a better prayer life, and if we are not implementing some of the steps given then we did not pay attention.

CRITIQUE

Overall I found Dr. Earley’s work to be very beneficial.  I was not sure what to expect when I first picked it up.  I was afraid it was going to be like some of those books that use very dry language.  Many books I have read on prayer in the past read as list of why we must pray.  They were more like checklists that must be followed, but this was not the case.

Dr. Earley wrote a book that was well written, relational, practical, and spiritual.  The nature of this book could be found in the first few lines of the introduction.  Dr, Earley asks, “Is it your passion to make a deeply positive spiritual difference in the lives of as many people as possible.  If so, I want to help you get there.  Or, should I say, God will help you get there[13].”

Though he has accomplished much in his ministerial career Dr. Earley remains humble, and that alone is an example for all.  However many times during the course of the book he is honest.  He is honest about his struggles, but is also quick to say that it comes with the territory when you choose to be in ministry.  The advice given on prayer is practical as it is based on scripture.  Examples are given of the patriarchs, the Apostles, and Christ himself.  Extra-biblical Christian heroes such as the early church fathers, Luther, Spurgeon, and Mueller are quoted.  Historical accounts are given for just what prayer helped these heroes accomplish.  In my opinion this book is a must for anyone who is serious about wanting to cultivate a better prayer life.

PERSONAL APPLICATION

There is much that can be written on how much I can implement from the assigned reading.  While reading I came to the conclusion that my prayer life is subpar.  I have made time to study scripture daily, but had not scheduled any time to pray.  According to my best estimate I maybe pray fifteen minutes per day.  I am easy prey for the evil one if this trend keeps up.  I have scheduled prayer time three times per day:  thirty minutes in the morning, fifteen minutes ate lunch, and fifteen minutes before bed.

This book also conveyed to me the importance of fasting.  Giving up something to focus more on prayer is something that is powerful and scriptural.  It is also something that I have not done, and to be honest was not ever going to do.  The book convicted me in such a way that I have two fasting days per month scheduled.  I have them scheduled on the days where I have the least amount of activity going on that way I can focus on prayer.

I am not yet privileged to be in full time ministry.  I have been a banker for the past nine years and see many types of people per day.  I see the rich, the poor, single moms, the homeless, and many people that are hurting.  Never had it dawned on me to pray for my customers.  Dr. Earley speaks of the importance of praying for those we lead.  I may not be in ministry full time, but why can’t I pray for these people I come in contact with every day?  Why can’t this be my ministry?  It is my goal to write down the first names of those I met and pray for them, by name, during my afternoon and evening prayer times.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion one thing has become crystal clear.  Prayer is the lifeline of our Christian walk.  It is our mode of communication with our savior, and if we are not communicating we are not growing.  In my opinion, Prayer:  The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders, is a must have for anyone who is serious about prayer.  It gives real world advice, and implementation methods that are very useful.  Without prayer we will fail to have the impact on our communities that Christ called us to have.  We would be wise to head the advice given by Dr. Earley.

 

 

 

WORKS CITED

1 Peter 5:7 (New American Standard Bible).

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (New Living Translation).

Earley, Dave. Prayer:  The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders. Chattanooga, TN: Amg Publishers, 2008.

Holman Concise Bible Dictionary, 1st ed., s.v. “disciple.”

[1] Holman Concise Bible Dictionary, 1st ed., s.v. “prayer.”

[2] 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (New Living Translation).

[3] Dave Earley, Prayer:  The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga, TN: Amg Publishers, 2008), x.

[4] , Ibid, 1.

[5] , Ibid, 19.

[6] Dave Earley, Prayer:  The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga, TN: Amg Publishers, 2008), 33.

[7] , Ibid, 71.

[8] 1 Peter 5:7 (New American Standard Bible).

[9] Dave Earley, Prayer:  The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga, TN: Amg Publishers, 2008), 111.

[10] Ibid, 129.

[11] Dave Earley, Prayer:  The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga, TN: Amg Publishers, 2008), 158.

[12] Ibid, 173.

[13] Dave Earley, Prayer:  The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga, TN: Amg Publishers, 2008), ix.

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