Category Archives: Reviews

Football And Fun

Like most of the U.S. population, I watched the Super Bowl with some friends Sunday evening.  It was the first NFL game I had watched all season. This was not because I don’t enjoy sports, mind you.  But, because I LOVE sports, I determined that I needed to fast from watching the NFL this season.

Football isn’t my favorite sport, so don’t think this was a huge sacrifice.  I do enjoy football, but mostly it’s just something to cheer for in between baseball seasons.  The toughest part was breaking from my family fantasy league. Congrats, Corey.

But as we all know, the most important part of the Super Bowl is the commercials!  Most say that the commercials just weren’t as good this year.  That may be true, but perhaps our expectations are unreal because of the pregame hype regarding the commercials.  There were some really clever commercials.  Most of them I could watch with my children. A few, however, I’d prefer not to have those images in my mind.

These few commercials clearly believed that the best way to promote their product was to make the “potential buyer” think of sex – trigger the lust-fulness of the watcher.  Most, however, seem to have learned that what people really want to do during the commercial breaks, is laugh with their friends.  So, to go daddy, kia, and fiat, I’ll just say “not cool!”  And to the rest, I will say, Well Done and Thanks for allowing the Super Bowl to be an environment where youth pastors and parents don’t have to sweat it out during the commercials or show the game on a time delay through a DVR and fast forward the commercials.  We can’t proclaim purity to our kids out of one side of mouths and from the other side excuse what is on our TV as “just a commercial.”

Even if you don’t have a commitment to purity in regard to what you allow your eyes to see, wouldn’t you rather see a grandma slingshot a baby at a tree house to score a bag of Doritos? Or perhaps like most of the adult world you are tired of the “teen harlequin” vampire genre and you enjoyed watching vampire’s burst into ashes in the stream of some super bright headlights.  Maybe you’re like me and you can’t get enough of dogs, dressed like star wars characters, barking Darth Vader’s theme music.

I could be optimistic, but I felt like the commercials were, for the most part, cleaner this year.  There were a few extreme exceptions, but most of the commercials were pretty good.  What’s your opinion?


My Top Ten for 2011

Each of us have our different tastes in music, books and movies, but most of us enjoy music and books and or movies.  I might read a book that I find particularly stirring or one that impacts me and my wife will think it’s just “okay.” So, your list might match mine or be completely different.  In fact, if you have a book, CD or movie that helped move you forward in your journey with Christ during the previous year, feel free to share it in the comments section.  I might just add it to my own list of things to read, watch and listen to in 2012.  My list below is not ranked in any particular order.  That is not my intention. They are simply the top ten books and recordings that have fueled my fire for Christ during the last year.  And maybe a movie or two. Anyway, here goes…

  1. Bonhoeffer – Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, by Eric Metaxas – This is a huge book about a great man.  I took my time with it and read it over the course of two months.  If you enjoys biographies or are inspired by the lives of great Christians, this is a must read! I loved this book and passed it on to a friend who passed it on to another friend.
  2. Ghosts Upon the Earth – Gungor – I don’t really know how to define Gungor and I think the band would be very proud of that.  This is a very talented, creative, innovative group of musicians and worshipers.  As a worship pastor, looking for more songs to help us say all that we need to say to God, most of Gungors songs are attainable for congregations’ singing, but it was unmistakable to me that worship was taking place during their concert at NWLC last summer.  It’s difficult to put my finger why they’re so appealing to me, but I can say that my kids and I can’t get enough of Gungor and Ghosts Upon the Earth displays everything we like about the band Gungor. Trans-Siberian Orchestra meets Sigur Rós and Queen – minus a measure of flamboyancy.
  3. Jesus Manifesto, by Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet – I read this book toward the beginning of last year with my brother.  We live in different states, but called each other to discuss what we were reading.  Reading this sparked a revival in my own heart.  I didn’t even realize that I was in need of a revival, but after years of working in a church, I’d begun to subconsciously convince myself that I had to live this Christ life out of sheer will.  I would have never said that out loud or even believe that I believed it, but my inner thoughts were telling me a different story.
  4. 10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman – Last summer I attended the National Worship Leader Conference in Kansas City, KS and when Matt Redman lead one of the evening worship times, his recording 10,000 reasons became my top favorite worship album of the year.  We have already incorporated 2 of the songs and I suspect more are to come.  The two songs we sing as a congregation are 10,000 Reasons and Holy.
  5. Bark of the Bog Owl, by Johnathan Rogers – In 2011 I began following the blog at rabbitroom.com.  It’s a community of creatives – song writers, authors, musicians, theologians, artists, etc.  I encourage you to check it.  On to my point… one of the contributors to that site is the author, Johnathan Rogers.  The Bark of the Bog Owl is the first book in the Wilderking trilogy and takes the reader into world of swamps, gators and of course the mysterious Feechie folk.  Rogers is a wonderful writer and, though this book is more of a young adult fiction, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  6. The Reckoning – NEEDTOBREATHE – For me it seemed like this was a step back from the groups previous offering – Outsiders – at least on my initial enjoyment level.  But I found that I couldn’t stop listening to it.  I’m still trying to figure out the deeper meaning behind some of the lyrics, but even if I don’t pick up on them, the music is fantastic!
  7. The Way of the Wild Heart by John Eldredge – An older book that I finally got around to reading.  I can’t express enough that I wish I had read this book when I first purchased it several years ago.  I think I’d be a better dad to my sons.  I hope that I can make up for some of the time I’ve lost, know that many of the things Eldredge pointed out have turned a switch on in my brain.  If you have sons, or just need to understand some of the “why questions” on your journey as a man, then I encourage you to read this book.
  8. Over The Edge by Brandilyn Collins – Okay, I admit that I might be rounding up on this one, but let me explain.  I don’t normally read murder mysteries or suspense, but another book I read encouraged me to read the some of the same authors my wife chooses so… I actually like the book and finished it in maybe two days.  My wife and daughter had been reading a lot of Brandilyn Collins recently so I thought I would join them.  This is in my top ten to say – I’m glad I did – and it really is a good book for it’s genre.
  9. The King’s Speech – This was such a great movie.  I didn’t catch it in theaters when it came out, so I’m a little behind, but my wife and I rented it this year and found it to be a very compelling story.  Reminds me of another who tried to use his stammering as an excuse not to serve.  Yes, I’m talking about you, Moses.  For the rest of us, we have no excuses to offer God when He calls us.
  10. Captain America – The First Avenger – A shout out to my favorite childhood super hero! There were certainly better pieces of cinema in 2011 and certainly more inspiring movies.  I willingly concede.  But I was excited to finally see my favorite super hero on the big screen.

Well, that’s it – nothing too spectacular to an outsider, but to me, this was a big part of my journey over the last year and includes the things I really enjoyed.  I’d love to hear about the books/albums/movies you enjoyed last year.  Please share your comments.


Live Like You Were Dying (Wait! I’m not done yet!)

Sunday we finished, what I believe will prove to be, a pivotal series in the life of our church. And I find myself asking the question “Where do I go from here?” I feel like I’m just starting to apply these principles into the fabric of my everyday living and I’m not ready to put away.  Do you feel that way too?  I have asked our Church Librarian to suggest a few books from our library that will help us continue on this journey – even when the sermon series is over and the small groups have completed their studies together.  Thank you Barb Rich for being my guest blogger on the Schoeneblog, today.
by Ann Voskamp
 
 Just like you, Ann Voskamp hungers to live her one life well. Forget the bucket lists that have us escaping our everyday lives for exotic experiences. ‘How,’ Ann wondered, ‘do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does the Christ-life really look like when your days are gritty, long—and sometimes even dark? How is God even here?’ In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God’s gifts. It’s only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we’ve always wanted … a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. We come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved — by God. Let Ann’s beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living that is finally fully alive. Come live the best dare of all!
When Life Is Hard by James MacDonald

When life is hard, you know, really hard, we often spend all our time pleading, begging, yelling, refusing, and questioning. While none of these things are necessarily unusual, they are missing the ultimate point. When life is hard, when things get ugly, when all hope seems to be lost… that is when we are able to display the superiority of the life lived in God.
It is in those moments of despair, when we question what is happening, when we don’t know what to do, when some trials never…seem…to…end, that we can lean most heavily into God’s promises and truths.

Don’t Forget To Dream: Pursuing a Life That Matters-Shaped by the Heart of God 
by Tim Dowdy “Don’t Forget to Dream” by Tim Dowdy is a book of encouragement for young people. Many times they set goals for themselves only to have them crushed. Dowdy’s book offers hope for crushed dreams. He offers the path to fulfilled dreams. Each chapter contains anecdotes from Dowdy’s memories, scripture that supports Dowdy’s statements, words of encouragement and a challenge. Dream Resolution is an area to record your intentions in that particular area. I highly recommend this book for high school, college students, and all young people.

Live Big!: 10 LifeCoaching Tips for Living Large, Passionate Dreams by Dr. Katie Brazelton

Life coach Dr. Katie Brazelton provides readers the tools they need to move from daydreaming to real adventure. In a friendly and encouraging tone, Katie takes readers through ten steps, from Face Your Fears to Capture Your Live Big! Dream. Each of the ten steps gives readers a broader, richer understanding of how to start, run, and finish the race well ahead of the pack. And on each step of the way, Dr. Brazelton offers inspiring messages, stories, scriptures, and prayers..
With busy lives and complicated schedules, most people don’t think they have time to fulfill their dreams while still juggling work, family, friends, and God. Dr. Brazelton’s Live Big! has just the right-sized bits of wisdom to help readers get started on the process of finding their God-designed purpose. .

Outlive Your Life:You Were Made to Make A Difference  by Max Lucado

These are difficult days in our world’s history. 1.75 billion people are desperately poor, natural disasters are gouging entire nations, and economic uncertainty still reigns across the globe. But you and I have been given an opportunity to make a big difference. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God’s love and life? We are created by a great God to do great works. He invites us to outlive our lives, not just in heaven, but here on earth. Let’s live our lives in such a way that the world will be glad we did.

Surviving in an Angry World: Finding Your Way to Personal Peaceby Charles Stanley

The premise of this book is that learning to let go of anger—and ultimately forgiving the offender—will transform the foundation of every kind of relationship we have. Stanley defines anger as “a strong feeling of intense displeasure, hostility, or indignation as a result of a real or an imagined threat or insult, frustration, or injustice toward yourself or towards someone who’s very important to you.” Building on this definition, Stanley…
1. Helps readers identify the signs of anger, so they can identify anger in themselves. 
2. Reveals the far-reaching consequences of anger, which encompass the spiritual, emotional, and physical.
3. Teaches readers how to handle anger through thirteen concrete steps.
4. Walks readers through the steps to true forgiveness and the healing power it brings.
Thanks again Barb for these suggestions. Barb has assured me that all these books are currently in the library and not checked out at this time.  Let me suggest a couple other ideas to keep the Live Like You Were Dying theme in front of you.  Go back and do it all again!  You can listen to all the sermons a second time here on the FSBC family website.  Go through the book again, too.  You can get a DVD from me if you’d like to watch Gary Smalley’s teaching one more time.  The important thing is DON’T FORGET and DON’T QUIT.  We’ve heard it, now let’s live it… together.
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV

New Music Tuesday!

 
I love new music and that makes today feel like Christmas! FOUR big new releases come out today and I intend to go buy them and listen much.  NEEDTOBREATHE, Gungor, Matt Maher, and Leeland are among my favorites and they all release new projects on the same day! today… why am I still here blogging? I’ve got a lot of listening to do.  Go get your own, I’m going to be busy for a while.  Oh yeah, and I’ll also be picking up the new Jason Gray.  And if you don’t have them already get the new collection from Big Daddy Weave.

Bonhoeffer

Well, I finally finished reading Bonhoeffer. It is a long book, but it didn’t feel long. Eric Metaxas did a wonderful job of giving it flow and of course, Bonhoeffer’s life itself kept me turning the pages. I was equally enlightened and challenged in my faith and my call to interact with my world around me, as a believer.
I had known of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for a long time, but only by name and that he had something to do with standing strong, for Christ, in the face of the Third Reich. What I did not know or understand was the way he first stood for Christ within the church. Bonhoeffer was indeed a prophet warning the church against the influence of the evil one who was using the new German government for a direct attack on the church and on God’s chosen people.

Bonhoeffer stood up for the church against the attacks on the Bible. He stood for the Jews as they were first banned from the German church, as they were dismissed from positions of leadership in Germany and as they were ultimately sentenced to genocide. Bonhoeffer was a warrior of Biblical proportions not unlike, Joshua or Caleb, Gideon or David, as he participated in the dangerous plot to assassinate Hitler.

If you’ve never read a biography of a faithful Christ follower, you should. I’ve only read a handful of biographies, but I haven’t regretted the time spent with any of them. And Bonhoeffer has moved to the top of that list!

You Should Read This


Andrew Peterson has written a really nice post regarding the Harry Potter saga. I’m linking it for you herebecause I want to encourage you to read it. I’ll look for you comments on his post if you chose to join the conversation.


Next Read – Bonhoeffer

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Finally finished JESUS MANIFESTO and it was worth taking my time. So full of words that point the soul in the direction of Jesus Christ. As a worship leader, I long to point to Jesus week after week – more so now, after reading this book, than ever.
Interesting that in this book were several great quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ve also read some quotes from him, which people have posted on twitter. It’s interesting because I had already decided that the next book I would read would be BONHOEFFER – Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas.
You readers and/or movie goers may remember the story of William Wilberforce and the Movie – Amazing Grace, several years back. Metaxas first crack at a biography was Wilberforce and in his second effort he has picked a great man of God to study. I can’t wait to get started!
It’s going to take time to get through the 542 pages, but I imagine Bonhoeffer’s unique life at the heart of the empire of evil that was Nazi Germany would take time to tell. If you’ve read this book or any by Metaxas post in the comments and encourage me and others to enjoy BONHOEFFER – Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. If you haven’t, pick it up and start reading with me.

 

I think it was Billy Graham who said that every believer should always be reading 3 books – The Bible, The Hymnal, and the Biography of a Christ Follower.

Added 5/3/11 I read this morning that Bonhoeffer just won the Overall 2011 book of the year from ECPA.


Is Jesus Center?

I’ve really been enjoying this book over the last month. Some terrific theology can be found in this book which takes deliberate steps to restate Christ as the center of our faith. While reading this book, I have been very encouraged and affirmed, as I’m reminded of who I am “In Christ.” I remember being told as I grew up in the church that, because of Christ, God no longer sees my faults and shortcomings when He looks at me. Instead, He see the righteousness of His Son, Jesus.Jesus Manifesto also does a great job of glorifying Jesus as the “Firstborn of all creation.” It reminds us that the whole of Scripture points to Jesus, just as Jesus says to the pharisees in John 5. Jesus, addressing the pharisees in John 5 says these words.

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.”

Reading Jesus Manifesto has reinforced this lesson; that the purpose for which we study the Word is to know Jesus. Sometimes in my life I have been guilty of looking to the Bible for a quick fix or a “How To.” But the Bible is not a “self help” book, it is in fact quite the opposite, a “deny self” book.

As of today, I’m 2/3 of the way through this book, but I have read enough that I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to put Jesus back at the center of their world.


Fun, Fellowship and Rock-n-Roll

I’m still contemplating the devotion, talents and skills of our members involved in Phil’s Diner 2. This past weekend was an awesome time of fun, fellowship and rock-n-roll. I enjoyed that our church was saying to our friends and neighbors “Just come and have fun with us.” And FUN it was indeed.

Now we are all exhausted. I fought the temptation to cancel a Monday 5:15 creative team meeting. A team of which each member was involved in the Dinner Theater. I’m sure they were all as exhausted as I was and still am. I didn’t cancel and we had a great meeting.

It’s a good kind of exhaustion we are feeling. Job well done by all of you!! It was worth it. People came and some came back Sunday morning. Others will trickle in to our presence again, down the road and they’ll remember the joyful spirits and presentation of Phil’s Diner. They’ll remember that we are a church. They have recognized that we are a family. They have seen us work and play well with each other. We set an example of being the body.

Here is a warning. In your exhaustion you (and I) need to rest. But it is tempting to turn inward and become self focused. This happened to Elijah after the big show at Mt. Carmel. God used him to put the prophets of Baal to shame, then Elijah ran and hid in Horeb. I’ve experienced this Elijah syndrome myself and it is the pits!

What am I trying to say? Cast, Crew, Leaders, Musician – You did a fantastic job Friday and Saturday and all the days leading up to them in which you worked hard a prepared. Now, rest and prepare yourselves to lead and serve again. But don’t go hide and don’t despair. The Lord is on your side and is with you. He will give you rest and He is not done doing great things IN you!


Feeling Enriched

…And yet I/We have so much work to do!

What a great Marriage Enrichment Workshop at FSBC family. Thanks to all the team who worked so hard today so that other couples could relax and take it all in and focus on their spouses! Also, thanks to the team from West Side Family Church for their great leadership and all the break out classes.
It helps all of us to take an honest look at ourselves in regard to all walks of this Christ life but even more so in this most precious gift of God… MARRIAGE. I think we can easily get weary of continually trying to compromise/get our way/give in/give up, that we take so much of the simple wisdom for granted. Jesus is the center – period. There is no other way. We honor Him to work hard at unity. Here is the the list of things I’m trying to apply from this weekend. Remember this is just me, not Melanie. She has her own take away which will also benefit us both.
  1. Be the Lamb and/or Owl (the other animals don’t work)
  2. Compromise sometimes means the other person gets their way. (and it’s okay!)
  3. Communicate at level 5 always (even when you don’t feel like going upstairs)
  4. When you come to an agreement keep it (and forget the other options you passed over – they are no longer relevant or helpful)
  5. Talk about your budget (yeah that means together)
Well, If I can do these things and keep Jesus at the CENTER of 1-5 and all the rest that well follow, then our marriage will keep getting better and better. It’s what we wanted when we said “I Do” and we want it more than ever now and for tomorrow. I’m so happy I have a godly, patient and growing wife! It was a great time for us to stop and refocus.