Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Brief review of John Maxwell's, The Power of Significance

The Power of Significance by John Maxwell is another in the long line of very insightful works by this author. If you don’t read it for any other reason, the section on the three questions will be well worth your time. And no, I’m not going to give them to you in this review! This book is a great resource to those who want to live their lives for more than just success. Many will find a great companion for the second season of their lives in the book. However, it’s not just for old folks like me. The principles in the book when applied at a younger age can lead the reader on an incredible journey of adding value and significance to both their lives and the lives they touch as they journey through life. I would highly recommend you read this book for yourself!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Review of Recruits by Thomas Locke

Recruits is the newest release by one of my favorite authors, Thomas Locke. The sci-fi work has everything that makes people love this genre. The creative thoughts are intelligent and believable. For me that is what makes really good fiction. Can I believe the story? The answer in this case is a resounding yes! As the plot unfolds in Recruits, the reader becomes more engaged in the details of the story and less concerned with the science-fiction aspect of the book as it should be.

The characters are well developed as all of Locke’s characters are. The details of the environment are magnificently told so that we are totally able to visualize both the places we know and the places that exist only in the story. The transitions between the two worlds are seamless and brilliant. You’ll find yourself totally immersed in the plot and forget that you are reading about a world that exists only in the mind of a great author.

Recruits has something for everyone. Romance, Intrigue, Fantasy, Battle, Interpersonal Drama, and even a Morality Issue are all found in the pages of this great work by Locke. If you are a fan of fiction, you will love this book. It’s a great spring break or summer time read. It’s engaging but also wildly entertaining. I highly recommend this book on many levels.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my review.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Balance: The proper perspective for ministry to college students

Balance. It’s a word we don’t think about often but are affected by every day. When we are young it comes with a price, usually a few bumps and bruises as we learn that critical skill needed to become a mobile human being. When we get old it is a treasure as those we love struggle to maintain it so they don’t become a victim to the troubles that come with a fall. It means to keep or put something in a steady position so that it does not fall.

I’ve been doing ministry with college students long enough to see a few things. I kind of feel like the Farmers Insurance commercial there. I know a few things, because I’ve seen a few things! The current trend seems to be to focus heavily on discipleship with college students. And that’s a great thing. We’ve seen resurgence in our discipleship at the BCM and the effects are awesome. However, this isn’t the first time the pendulum has swung in the discipleship direction in my lifetime. Early in my ministry and when I became a believer in Jesus it was the rage then. We all knew the chart that if we just did discipleship with two people every six months the world would be won to Christ by now. Well that is true in theory, just not very doable in practice!

Then the emphasis on large group meetings became the way to reach more college students. Fueled by the success of Louie Giglio and Pasion and Gregg Matte and Breakaway, the push became to make a dynamic large group teaching and music venue the driving force in ministries. Churches even began to have their own College Worship services. And that was good even great for a season. The majority of resources were committed to making the weekly meeting the best and brightest thing on campus. Campus ministers began to focus more on their communication skills in front of large groups. And that was a good thing until it began to produce fewer disciples and more attenders. Suddenly it was harder to attract them and more stressful to keep producing a better show each week. While there are still some awesome speakers who can handle the large crowds, the spaces to host those and people to lead them are limited, so the pendulum moved again.

The effort to reach out and share the gospel through programs like FAITH witness training gained traction in some areas of college life for a while. Teams were formed, contacts were generated, and lives were transformed by the witness of others. When FAITH was too long or too structured, college ministers turned to Share Jesus Without Fear or similar programs. We trained students in everything from gospel tracts to E-Cubes. And for a while there was great effort made in saturating the campus with witnesses. Cold call evangelism was prevalent through surveys and dramas depicting Heaven and Hell even made appearances on the college scene. And God used those efforts to bring thousands of students to Himself. But then the movement known as Post-Modernism began to form on the campus and the idea of apologetics and convincing someone of the truth of Jesus was made a bit more difficult. So the pendulum moved again.

It seems to me that the most effective long term ministries have always had a proper balance of those things and other programs. Sure they may not be the biggest, the brightest, or the most known. But over the years they have continued to produce solid disciples and have continued to make an impact on their campuses and local churches. Most of us who serve in collegiate ministries have egos and a desire to want to reach as many students as we can with the gospel. So we can be tempted to run after the latest hot method or strategy. But in the end, it’s those who maintain the course that the Lord gives them who produce lasting results. Their ministries seem to be on solid ground all the time. They have found the sense of balance that comes from operating from who they are and how God has gifted them. We need a solid balanced idea of ministry that includes discipleship, evangelism, a large group event, small group involvement, engagement in missions and a challenge to be a great commission fulfilling worldview! The emphasis might shift from time to time, but let’s keep a balanced approach to reaching, teaching and sending college students to help expand the kingdom of the Lord rather than our own.

Monday, November 28, 2016

My Review of The Jerusalem Protocol from David Orlo

The Jerusalem Protocol

The second novel from new author David Orlo continues the Regan Hart series. While it's not necessary for the reader to have read the first book, it would be helpful. The three main characters in the book are continued from The Cloud Strike Prophecy and while there are retrospective narratives that provide some insight into how the story developed, first time readers may wonder how and why this team is together. Readers can always go back and read the first book to fill in the blanks after completing the current story.

The main trio of Ty, Solly, and of course Regan Hart are back and involved in an international incident that could have been ripped from the pages of any current newspaper. The only negative about the plot line is that with a little more effort it could have been split into at least two books. There are several sub plots and twists that are really solved a little too easily to be truly believable. I wish Orlo had taken a bit more time to develop these stories and inserted a little more tension for the characters by not having all of them work out in favor of the good guys. That is something that seasoned writers include to build intrigue and identification with the characters. As an avid reader of fiction that is what really separates the good from the great authors.

Knowing the author personally I can see where his desire to have the message of Jesus be the focus of the book caused the story to flatten out a little. This makes sense given the nature of the book in some ways as a part of the series, but might cause some new readers to scratch their head as to why it becomes the central theme in a book centered on the rebuilding of the Jewish temple. The story is a bit too neat and tidy for me. I would have preferred a little more left unfinished to adequately mirror real life and help me stay connected to the story and characters.

With that being said, the book is a great read. The story is interesting in its scope and implications. It's based on good research and many trips by the author to the places included in the book. With more experience writing the development of the back story of the characters will improve but it is adequate now. The plot has enough twists to keep you engaged. You will want to keep reading until you get to the end. I was intrigued by the weaving together of the stories concerning ISIS, the Jews, intelligence agencies, and Christian concerns. It makes perfect sense and while it may be too simplified the reader can imagine the outcome actually happening sometime in our near future.

I highly recommend the book and I look forward to future installments from Orlo and the Regan Hart Series or other stories. This book will be appreciated by anyone, but for those interested in Christian or Jewish Prophecy, it will be a thought provoking masterpiece. It might even get them to ask, "Is this fiction or a not yet fulfilled reality?"

I received a complimentary copy of the book for my review and honest commentary.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Domino Effect is a must read book for such a time as this!

In the latest novel by Davis Bunn the reader is confronted with a storyline that might have been taken from the headlines of any news channel. The main character is appropriately named Esther. The name is both symbolic of the character’s place in the story and the story itself in the place of history. It’s not difficult to read between the lines to see that Bunn is making a commentary about the current state of financial times. His background in business can be seen throughout the intricate details of the banking industry as expressed in the fictional account of Esther.
Set among the high risk and high reward investment banking sectors, the story is both believable and terrifying. The information shared in the dialogue between characters is rich and appears to be accurate, although I admit that the technical issues of the banking industry are well beyond me. The plot develops quickly and the story is hard to put down once you get engrossed in the intrigue and back story issues that the characters face.
Some Bunn fans may be a bit disappointed with the lack of a strong spiritual story woven within the main plot, but it’s there in the background for those with the wisdom to perceive it. This work just doesn’t have it in the foreground as do most of Bunn’s previous stories. But that’s all you will have to complain about if you are a fan.
The characters are richly developed and contain the necessary flaws and cracks to make them loveable from the start. They appear as real people who might live down the street or work in the bank that you visit on a regular basis. There is intrigue, conflict, turmoil, and some unexpected twists in the plot to keep the reader engaged throughout the book. It might even cause you to make some changes in your own personal financial strategies if you are perceptive enough.
Overall, I would highly recommend you buy this book and read it as soon as possible. While the risk might not be as urgent as the one faced in the book, this is a book for the times in which we live. Or from the line in the book of Esther, “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” This book has that feel about it. This is a book that had to be written and deserves to be read and acted upon, even if it fiction!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for my unbiased review.

Monday, August 22, 2016

We have amazing servant leaders at UF BCM!

This past week has been quite hectic. Welcome Weeks usually are. Welcome Week is when our Baptist Collegiate Ministry tries to reach out to the new and returning students who are moving back into our community to continue or begin their college education. It’s a crazy busy week with events every night and people moving in all over campus. In our ministry we try to create a culture of servant leadership. How do you know if you’ve been successful? Let me describe a few ways that were on display this past week.

When you have leaders who are in the band and it’s band camp week meaning they are practicing every day from 8 in the morning to 8 at night and they make an effort to come to events after 8 to meet new students you know you’ve created the right kind of servant leadership culture. They didn’t have to come. We weren’t expecting them to show up. They were tired and sweaty but they wanted to invest in the activities and more importantly in the relationships that are formed during the critical 21 day period at the start of the semester. They understand that service requires sacrifice of your time and energy.

We also had students who volunteered to help move students into the dorms. On our campus you have to apply in advance to help unless you know the person moving in. These students took the time to look ahead in their schedules and plan to be involved in the lives of new students and parents arriving on campus. They smiled when they were asked to carry heavy loads upstairs or move things for a couple of times to get it just right. In the down moments they were able to tell them about our ministry and invite them to the welcome week events each night. They understand that servant leadership means doing the tasks that others neglect with a smile on your face.

Our student leadership team took on the task of surveying during welcome week to gather contact information from new students. They spent hot days in the Florida heat, passing out flyers and engaging students with a 30 second survey that rarely is only 30 seconds! During the week, they gathered over 500 interested contacts and they sent an individual text to all of them. Then they came out each night to the events and brought energy and passion to interacting with every new student present. They were up early and out late every night. They understand that service requires you to go the extra mile to reach others.

Many of our students participated in the outreach even though that’s not their comfortable places. Some of them are introverts and naturally shy. But they still got out there and engaged with new friends that they hadn’t met yet. They were willing to move outside their comfort zones to see the kingdom of God move forward. They understand that servant leadership requires you to be uncomfortable at times.

One of our target outreach groups on campus is our university’s band. The band is made up of students who work very hard in the hot sun to entertain and engage our student body and all they really get is one hour of credit and a few perks. We have a few band members in our group so we wanted to help them reach their peers with the gospel. So during band camp this year, we asked the director if we could bring frozen popsicles for their break time. It required someone going to get them and several people coming to serve them by cutting open the tops and handing them out in the middle of the day. Our leaders jumped in to help this effort happen not one day but three days in a row. It is the first step in a plan to offer community to the band and study of God’s word on a regular basis. Our students understand that servant leadership often means doing a small job that leads to a greater impact.

How do you know you’ve been successful in creating a culture of servant leadership? When your president says can we change the title to chief servant? When your students serve without complaining? When you have students arriving to campus early to serve others? Then I can truly say Thanks be to God for we have been successful this year! I’m proud of our leaders because they truly understand that to lead is to serve others in Jesus’ name!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

2016 Gator Football Prognostication

“So let me start out by saying I have not seen any secret practices nor do I have a crystal ball! These are my guesses as to the year that will be Florida Football year 1 under Coach McElwain. I predict that the Gators will go 8-4 on the season and will finish unfortunately third or fourth in the SEC east. Now if things go perfectly and they have a better offensive year than most expect, they could go 11-1. If they turn the ball over and bad things happen in a couple of close games they could end up 5-7. How’s that for covering all the bases. Here’s how they get there.”

That’s how I began last year’s blog about the Gator Football season. They went 10-2 in the regular season and lost the SEC championship game and the bowl game. My reasoning was solid and they did have a better year than I expected. Now let’s turn the focus on this year’s season and try it again.

UMass comes into the swamp for the first game and while it may not be a repeat of last year’s opener, the results will be the same. The Gators will win easily and Luke Del Rio will be hailed as a potential Heisman winner by some Orange and Blue maniacs. The only thing that could derail the victory would be another late night thunderstorm!

The schedule changes this year and Kentucky comes a calling earlier than usual. Stoops has things headed in the right direction in Lexington, but this game ain’t in the bluegrass state. It won’t be as close as last year and the Gators move onto week three undefeated again. Just like the Vols schedule is easier in the month of November, the Gator’s is always easiest in September.

Week three features the match with the Mean Green from North Texas. It won’t be close and the Gators will be getting some good national attention about now. A night game in the Swamp in late September is as good as it gets. That is unless you are on the visiting sidelines. Gator fans should get to see the backup QB in this one.

The real key game again is with the Vols. This time it’s up in Knoxville. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Creamsicle clad bunch celebrating the end of the streak. I mean it can’t last forever can it? But until they actually win one, I’m still calling this one a victory for the guys from Gainesville. It will also mark the beginning of the end for Butch Jones if they don’t beat the Gators, so it’s a double win for the orange and blue! But remember, I am hedging my bets here because the Vols will be better, just hope the Gators are better too!

So at worst the Gators head to Tennessee in back to back weeks, thanks SEC schedule makers, for a road game with Vandy. It’s possible that the Gators will be either looking back at what should have been or looking ahead to LSU and make a real mess of this game. They shouldn’t but it seems that the Gators struggle in the Music City. This could be an upset that would all but end the dreams of another trip to Atlanta, but I think Coach Mac will have them ready to play regardless of what happened on Rocky Top. Gators win but we all breathe freely only after the game ends.

So a 4-1 or maybe 5-0 Gator team comes home to face the Mad Hatter and the LSU Tigers. This game should feature two top 15 at worst and maybe top 10 teams at that point and be the featured game of the day. If LSU can keep the RB healthy and playing hard, the Gator defense will have their hands full all day. The real question is can the Gator offense come around fast enough to take the pressure off the defense. The crowd can be a factor but only if the Gators can keep it close enough to force Miles to try another trick play. This time it won’t work and the Gators win another close game in the Swamp. That will be one big party on University Avenue if they win this one!

Another group of Tigers roll into town the next week but the claws aren’t as sharp in this bunch this year. Missouri will present a tough test but I don’t think they will spoil the homecoming festivities this year. The Gators head into the bye week with a 7-0 or 6-1 record.
I think that this year the celebrating in Jacksonville will be done by the dogs. This will be a hard fought defense led football game. The kind that Keith Jackson would call an old fashioned slobber knocker. I think that the run game of Georgia will be just a little better than the Gators if they stay healthy and I don’t think Coach Smart will play the waterboy again at QB. It could be changed by a turnover for the Gators and the fact that Georgia tends to play tight when they cross the St. John’s River.

Having to travel to Pig country after an emotional game will be tough for the Gators and could cause them to lose back to back games and demolish any chance of being in Atlanta. I think the biggest factor in this game will be the weather on the first week of November in Arkansas. If it’s a cold and windy day, the Hogs would have the advantage. If it’s a crisp but sunny day, I think the Gators will be able to throw on the Piglets. So without being able to call the weatherman this far in advance, I’ll go with the Gators to win it in their first trip to Giant Walmart Stadium in a long time.

Coach Muschump will return to the swamp the next week. He’ll be all hyped and bloody from smashing his face into a locker or something, but it won’t really matter. He’s not going to have enough offensive talent to do much against a great defense. Heck, if he had offensive talent, he’d move them to the defensive side. So as long as the Gators can field punts, they should be able to win this one. So the winner of the TN-UF game should be the winner of the East unless GA beats TN and that could happen, in which case we have a real mess.

Let’s face it, the seniors on the even years get the best of the Senior Day games. They can almost always count on a win, oh unless Chump comes back to coach the offense against Ga. Southern. But since the Gators are playing a Denominational school, they should win this one easily. All of the Seniors should see some playing time in their final home game, even the ones where this would be the first time they have seen real game action.

So a 9-2 Gator team heads out west to face the clowns. Unfortunately I think the clowns will have the last laugh again this year. The one possible problem could be if the Heisman hopeful at RB goes down for the Noles. In that case, I think it would be a coin toss. No great kicker, no great runner, and no great QB could mean a closer game than most would expect. That’s a lot of ifs for the Gators, so I don’t think those of us who love the Gators will want to talk to our Nole Friends over Christmas Break.

So there you go, that’s my picks for the year. A 9-3 season that may be good enough to get the Gators back to Atlanta or it may only be good enough for third in the east. Let’s hope we can keep our starters away from GNC this year and perhaps we will have an even better ending to the season than the beginning. I’m sure some of you will disagree with what I wrote and that’s okay. Just put your comments down for the reckoning that happens in January. By then we’ll all know which teams stayed healthy, which ones overachieved, and which ones were bitter disappointments again to their fans! Between now and then, we all get to have a great fall watching college football and talking smack! Let’s keep it classy and friendly because we all know it’s just a game, a very important one, but still just a game!