Men have been given, by God, the unique, glorious and weighty task of leading their families. This starts with spiritually leading and caring for your wife and children. Mark Driscoll used to quite helpfully say that when you start a family you have your own church and the husband/ father is the pastor.
The last few times that I have done marriage prep with one of the soon to be married couples at Resolved and we talk about the idea of spiritually leading your family the guy invariably falls into one of two categories. The first is shock/confused/scared. You see very few men have grown up in a household where the father led let alone led spiritually, so when I talk about leading the home spiritually they look at me with this “Is it too late to back out of this deal?” look. The second mistake is that the guy aims to high. He thinks his family is going to be the most spiritually healthy family since Jesus walked the streets of Galilee and so him and his wife are going to read the Bible and pray everyday and talk about how they are doing with Jesus all the time!!! Very few of these couples live up to this high ideal and if they do for an extended period of time they lose heart. Their spirituality becomes a chore when it was meant to be a joy. It is a bore and not glorious. Usually this well meaning husband ends up burning himself and his wife out.The question is “How do you lead your family spiritually in a joyful and yet sustainable way?” As someone who didn’t get this right and still has to work hard on it and yet has found a rhythm that works for my family I thought I would write a few blogs on this topic. My aim is that men everywhere feel less daunted and start leading and caring for their families spiritually.But some of you who are reading this are thinking “Hans, I’m exhausted from work and life and I don’t even feel like caring for my family spiritually when I get home. All I’m thinking about is getting home, getting the kids to bed and maybe having some time with my wife.” If that is you, you have company with most men. In fact I was in your situation. What’s the main problem here? Well there is no easy way of saying this but if you don’t feel like leading your family spiritually the problem is your heart. Your heart has fallen into the selfish trap of wanting life to be easy but leading your family is not easy, that is why very few men do it well. Your heart has drifted from your first love because if your heart was on fire for Jesus you would want to lead your family spiritually. The thing that you need to do is get your life back on track with Jesus and start living like the way you would want to to live. Start again reading your bible and praying (no listening to podcasts isn’t the same thing) talk to your pastor about where your relationship is at with Jesus and see if he can help you get back on track. The second thing is to start living like you know you should live. If you want faith start living like you have it and faith will follow. If you want to be a leader of your home start being one and you will find you will be. What does that look like? Well come check out the next blog where I will cover what this looks like for me.Leadership, especially spiritual leadership is never easy. The only way to start is to cultivate a heart of joy the loves God and wants to lead your family. That is the first step in leading your family.You may also like:
Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby
This is one of the best biographies I have ever read. Lazenby has a brilliant way of bringing out the humanness of his subject in a profound way. I came away from this book wanting to be a bit more like Mike and yet not at the same time. Jordan is seen as superman with deep flaws and this makes him far more human than the godlike hero many of us have thought him to be. Lazenby explores his background and goes into detail about the events and the life experiences that made Michael Jordan the greatest Basketballer ever. If you, like me, love basketball sell your shirt and go and buy this book. If you are not a basketball nut read this book to understand one of the most iconic figures of the last fifty years.
The Great Divorce by C.S Lewis.
In the Great Divorce a bus full of people from Hell go to heaven and have the option of discarding one aspect of themselves in exchange for heaven and all it’s joys. This is a brilliant theological fantasy. It is chock full of theological insights. The main point of the books is that people choose hell over heaven because there is something in their life they want to hold onto more than being in heaven with God. A profound insight! This is a book that I hope all Christians read while remembering that it is theological fantasy.
A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World by Paul E. Miller
In the praying life Miller helps us reengage with God by becoming like a child who learns once again to talk to their heavenly father like a child. He shows that one of our biggest obstacles to a truly rich prayer life is dealing with our cynicism and we deal with it precisely by having faith like a child again. This book is punctuated by moving stories form Miller’s prayer life and his life with his family. I hope everyone at my church will read. If you are a Christian you will profit greatly from this book.
Churchill by Paul Johnson
A friend of mine once said that we should read less books about leadership and read more books about great leaders. This is the first book that I have read about one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, Winston Churchill. This book clocks in at less than 180 pages and is brilliantly written. Churchill leaps of the pages and becomes an inspiring figure. This is a great book to read if you have never read anything about Churchill or if you are a leader who wants to be inspired!
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I was in my interview for Moore College. They had asked me to put down the Christian/theological books that I had read and I did. My interviewer asked me about one of them and I froze. I didn’t remember the argument in the book. I went bright red and he wondered aloud whether I had even read the book!
If you are anything like me you find it hard to retain the information in the books you read. This can be discouraging as it sometimes is hard to justify reading if you don’t remember what you have read.
Well here is how I get around this issue. I have a note taking app called Evernote in which you can write separate notes and the group certain notes together called “notebooks”. If I read a great sentence, paragraph or chapter about an idea like love I create a note in my “Illustrations” notebook entitled love and note down where I can find the reference. So next time I a writing a sermon and I need illustrations on love I can go to the note which will take me to the page in the book I made a note of and I have my illustration.
I do this too for passages of the Bible. If I find an author particularly helpful on Ezekiel 16 for example. I create a notebook in Evernote entitled Ezekiel and create a note called Ezekiel 16 and next time I preach or write something in Ezekiel 16 I check out my Evernote app, I go to my Ezekiel 16 note and find the parts of the books that have referred to this passage helpfully and I have got extra fodder for my study.
The other thing I do to make my reading count is if I read a good book I recommend the book to five people. If the person I recommend the book to goes to Resolved I usually ask if they want me to get them a copy of it. This is another way of discipling my congregation by making sure they have great books in their hands
The last thing I do is write quick reviews on my blog. This is hopefully helpful to people who, like me, hate to spend good money on bad books.
What do you do to make your reading count?
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There are two modern problems that affect those of us who want to read. The first is the social media. As you know, social media, can be very distracting but I don’t think that is the thing stopping us from reading. The thing that stops us from reading anything substantial is the overwhelming amount of articles and blogs that we can read from our news feeds. Unfortunately these the articles and blogs (except for this one of course!) are usually quite shallow and don’t really help us all that much. But if we read them we feel like we have acquired helpful information and it may have taken away our desire to read something more substantial. The second modern problem is the sheer amount of books there are to read. It seems like guys like N.T Wright, Don Carson, Tim Keller and John Piper have written a new book every other week that a blogger or a friend tells us we “have to” read. And this is not to mention all the other books that seem to be written by lesser known authors. And if you take account of books on our bookshelves that seem to look at us and say “You bought me three years ago at the conference and you still haven’t read me!” as well as those books we bought because our college lecturer, who has a brain the size of a dump truck and seems to have read everyone on everything, said we should buy and read them that we still haven’t read yet, we are overwhelmed. Where do we start? What should we read?
Here are four words of advice on this topic:
1. Don’t care what people say you should read
We all want to be seen as on the cutting edge of stuff and one of the ways we do this is by having opinions on the latest issues. That means we buy the books we have been told that we “should read” in a vain attempt to be current. I see this in my own life too. When John Dickson brought out his book “Chicks Can Speak Good in Church Too” (I pretty sure that is that title but I could be wrong) I bought it and read it. Why? Because I wanted to be in the know. My mind was settled on the issue (and I didn’t find myself persuaded by Dickson or our favorite ranga theologian Michael Bird’s arguments) and so I read the book because of my corrupt heart desiring the approval of men. I realized this and when the book that responded to Dickson called “Why John Dickson should stick to writing about Jesus and stay off Facebook” (once again I may not have the title of the book exactly nailed) I chose not to read it. I have decided I am not going to read to keep up with the Jones’ and if there is a book I have been told is a must read I am going to think about my goals for reading and see if that books helps me achieve those goals. If it doesn’t I am not going to read it. This means that I don’t feel pressured to buy the latest and greatest books and read them because everyone says I should.
2. Read for fun and for growth
Can I be honest? A lot of the theological books around today are not fun or inspiring. reading them can feel like the intellectual equivalent of eating dry weetbix, good for you but not an enjoyable at all. Now reading theology is important for christian leaders and I do a fair bit of it but if reading is not fun you won’t do it. For me reading about basketball, leadership, great men and women and our world from a sociological/philosophical perspective is fun and so I make sure I read those books as well as theology. And when I read theology I am more likely to read a theologian or pastor who I enjoy reading than one who is merely orthodox. So I not only read to grow my abilities, theology and leadership I read for fun.
3. Give yourself reading challenges
This year I have decided to give myself a reading challenge which is to read a book by C.S Lewis and a book on prayer a month. Before the start of this year I had never read a book on prayer or a book by C.S Lewis cover to cover and I have decided to challenge myself to grow in prayer and read Lewis. Can you give yourself a challenge this year? Where are you weak? Maybe you need to read some more on the Holy Spirit? If you are why not try to read a book a term on the Holy Spirit or on a significant area of theology? Maybe you need inspiration. If you do, why not try to read biography a term this year? How can you challenge yourself to read more and make the task or reading not just something you do passively but something you do to achieve a goal?
4. Vary up your reading
I cannot read on one topic no matter what it is for more than one book. Maybe you can, but I can’t. So what do I do? I vary up my reading. Last month I started off by reading Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby. Then I read The Great Divorce by C.S Lewis. Once that was finished I read A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World by Paul E. Miller and then finished off the month by reading Churchill by Paul Johnson. In one month I read two biographies, a book on prayer and a fantasy/theology book on eschatology. I can honestly say that I wasn’t bored reading this month partly because all these writer are excellent and partly because I read different books on vastly different topics. If you are anything like me you will need to vary up what you read. I promise you if you read a theological book and then a book on leadership and then a biography and then a book by a non christian about an aspect of our world you will be much more likely to keep reading then if you read a theological book followed by another theological book followed by another theological book. Also if we read just theology our world becomes all about theology and we can forget that there is a world outside with real people in it that need this theology delivered to them in a practical, helpful and inspiring way.
So what are you going to plan to read over the next week, month and year?
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Most of us want to read more but we have got so many things to do. Here are some things that you can do to help you read more:
1. Block out time
We don’t read because we don’t plan to read. I block out 1 hour each morning to read. That means I have to go bed an hour earlier and get up an hour earlier. To block out reading time you have to not spend some time on something else. What can you get rid of that will give you half an hour of time? Can you not watch that TV show that you only kind of like? Can you limit your time on social media and use that time to read? The only reason a pastor or a leader in Christian ministry doesn’t read is that they haven’t blocked out time.
2. Carry a book or two around with you at all times
I don’t know how many hours a year I spend waiting for people or meetings or on public transport. So, being the good boy scout that I am, I am always prepared with a book or two to read. It is amazing the amount you can read if you read on your daily commute. Now I don’t read very dense books on my daily commute or when I am waiting for someone because for those books I need to be a in a quiet place with very little distraction but that doesn’t mean I can’t read a lighter book that will I will still profit from.
3. Read books with other people
I find that reading a book with someone that I am meeting in disciplining relationship is a great use of my time and forces me to block out time to read the book we are reading. You could even start a theological book reading group with people at church and this will force you to read more too. Some of the books I have loved reading with people are:
What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics by RC Sproul
The Prodigal God by Tim Keller
The Holiness of God by R.C Sproul
Humility: True Greatness by C.J Mahaney
Knowing God by J.I Packer
And here are some of the books I am hoping to read with people at Resolved this year:
The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs – Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin Deyoung
A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World by Paul E. Miller
If you block out time to read, keep a book with you and read it when you are waiting and on public transport and start reading books with others at church you will be amazed at how much you can read in one year!
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I have heard people say to me “Man you read a lot!” or something similar a number of times over the past few months and so I have decided to blog about reading over the next few blog posts.
It may surprise some of you that I have not always been a reader. When I was a teenager I really only read basketball and guitar magazines. When I first went to Bible College in 2001 I had read only one or two good Christian books and, needless to say, college was tough. I was swamped by how much reading and how little time there was. It was always my plan to go to college for a year and do some ministry and come back and finish my degree off so when I left college battered and bruised by the rightly tough academic standards I decided I needed to become a reader come hell or high water. So I devoted myself to an hour of reading a day. I first started off with popular christian books and I worked my way up to harder titles. I have tried to keep up an hour of reading a day (except on weekends) since then and here are the benefits I have accrued from reading:
1. Increased knowledge and skills
I have found that reading has expanded my knowledge and skills in so many different areas. For example my leadership skills have grown as I have read books like Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky or The Leadership Challenge by
2. Freshness of ideas
As a pastor, I have one message and one message only. My job is like a mailman because, just like a mailman, my job is to deliver the message without tampering it at all. But how do you come at the gospel in a fresh way every week? This is where reading has helped. Reading books like Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul Tripp and The Holiness of God by R.C Sproul have helped me see the gospel and it’s implications in fresh, exciting and yet faithful ways. As a leader and preacher reading helps me stay fresh and I hope my church benefits from this also. If you feel stale get a great book and read to refresh yourself!
3. Encouragement and inspiration
Any leadership gig is tough and so we, as leaders, need constant and repeated encouragement and inspiration. I have found many of the books that I have read to be greatly encouraging and inspiring. The Prodigal God by Tim Keller refreshed my soul as I saw both the presence of the older brother and the younger brother in my life and I saw the saving power of the gospel and my need for it again in such a powerful way. As a leader, reading biographies like Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby and Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton has been inspiring. To see men who triumph despite great odds and to see what God does through people like Luther inspires me to pray and to keep going in my pastoral journey! If you are discouraged grab a biography of a hero and let it inspire you!
There are three reasons I as a leader spends time reading. Tomorrow I will be looking at making time to read.
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Passion and buy in are choices we make. We choose to be passionate about some things and not others and we choose to buy in to some things and not others.
Passion isn’t project specific. It’s people specific. Some people are hooked on passion, deriving their sense of of self from the act of being passionate.
Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen.
Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, 92
What should you be passionate about now that you aren’t? Is it a job, your church, your marriage or something else? Maybe you need to work on being passionate for something again. You can will yourself to be passionate.
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We all want to be loved. But some of us need to be loved. In his great book Michael Jordan: The Life, Roland Lazenby talks about the different between two of the coaches of the Chicago Bulls in Jordan’s time. The first is Doug Collins who was quote successful, but feel short of winning a championship, and Phil Jackson, who is widely considered one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. The quote by Johnny Bach, who served as an assistant coach under both head coaches, is most telling.
Collins has many strengths, but his insecurity played out in a difficult way. On a certain level, he wanted to be loved by his players, particularly Jordan, which simply wasn’t possible. Jackson, on the other hand, showed little interest in that. “The most important things is that he never sought their love,” Bach said of Jackson, looking back. “there are many coaches who want to be loved, who have to be loved and go down in flames as a result of it. Pro athletes just aren’t going to do that. They aren’t going to give you that love if you seek it.”
Roland Lazenby Michael Jordan: The Life, 374
One of the greatest and most painful learning experiences I have in leadership is the one stated above. As a leader I can’t need my people to love me. If I do I won;t lead them, I won’t have hard conversations or make hard calls. If I need them to love me I am dead kin the water as a leader. But if my heart rejoices that I am loved by God beyond measure I have the emotional strength not to need people’s love. And in the end I probably will not only be a better leader but one that is loved too.
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I will let Tim Keller Review this book.:
“This book right now is a terrific, fast way to get a handle on western culture because:
It’s a great survey of western thought—very few are available, especially from a non-Christian who is sympathetic to Christianity. All other books you buy will be less comprehensive. Though his expression of Christian doctrine is often garbled, Ferry has deep appreciation for Christianity, and when he describes how Christianity swept Greco-Roman paganism away as a cultural force, it is a remarkable, eye-opening account. It shows a) how complex and difficult it is to change culture, but b) how indeed culture does get changed. The shifts away from Christianity are also extremely interesting.”
My thoughts exactly. Buy this book and read it no matter who you are!Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – Carol DweckThis book is inspirational! Dweck is is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and so, even though this books may sound like a trashy self help book, it is in reality far from that! Dweck argues that there are two mindsets; the fixed mindset which says that things like intelligence, abilities, and other aptitudes are inbuilt and you can not become better at them with hard work. Whereas the growth mindset says that through hard work and determination you can learn, grow and become better in any area no matter if it is in the academic or sporting fields. This is a great book if you are a counselor, pastor, teacher, coach or parent.The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs – Sebastian Traeger and Greg GilbertIn reading a bunch of books on work for an upcoming series of talks at church I found this book the most helpful, down to earth and practical. Gilbert and Traegar say that we can either fall into the trap of idleness at work or idolatry of work. This theme is repeated through out the book which is chock full of biblical, theologically accurate real world application. It is the book I hope the workers at my church read!I always hated the idea of networking. It gave me thoughts of people worming their way into conversations and relationships in an effort to get people to do what they want or to work their way up corporate or social ladders. Keith Ferazzi shows this is not the case at all. At the heart of the good networking is trying to help people. This is the big theme in the book. This is a great book to read if you need help networking or you need to grow as a people person.You may also like:
As a young parent it is easy to freak out at all the advice and shoulds and should nots when it comes to parenting. These words of sanity from Kevin DeYoung were like cool water to this young parent’s soul:
I just know that the longer I parent the more I want to focus on doing a few things really well, and not get too passionate about all the rest. I want to spend time with my kids, teach them the Bible, take them to church, laugh with them, cry with them, discipline them when they disobey, say sorry when I mess up, and pray like crazy. I want them to look back and think, “I’m not sure what my parents were doing or if they even knew what they were doing. But I always knew my parents loved me and I knew they loved Jesus.
Maybe our hearts are too busy with fear and worry. Maybe we are overanxious. Maybe we are overcommitted. Maybe we are over-parenting. And maybe we are making our lives crazier than they need to be. While we can’t avoid being busy with our children—indeed, it’s a biblical command (Titus 2:5)—with a good dose of prayer, a shot of biblical reflection, and a little common sense, we can avoid freaking out about them quite so much.
Kevin DeYoung Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, 74-75
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