Category Archives: Leadership and Faith

Book Review: The Colson Way by Owen Strachan

Time quickly flies by and we too soon and too often forget the lessons history teaches us. I wanted to read The Colson Way by Owen Strachan because I was a fan of Chuck Colson’s life of faith and I loved the book’s tagline: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World.

I thought the tag line picked up a key challenge in living a winsome faith in today’s society. I admired how Chuck Colson went from political animal to faith force and all with a touch of humility and a heart committed to connect others to Christ.

However, the book had a different audience in mind. That didn’t turn out to be a bad thing, just a different perspective. Strachan’s audience is primarily but not exclusively millennials who will soon forget or will have rarely heard of the impact Chuck Colson made and the life lessons he taught that span the generations.

The Colson Way records the history of Chuck Colson’s life as well as lessons learned along the way. Though biographical, the book even more provide practical insights for application in today’s world.

Though I admired Colson form a distance, Owen Strachan provided a closer look. I grew a greater appreciation of how often out of life’s greatest failure God make His greatest impact. That was true not only for Chuck Colson’s life but also for Mary Kay Beard. She too served time in prison. She also had an incredible impact on her release. The impact, influence and love express in Angel Tree ministry in the Christmas season flows out of her greatest failure and a life of incredible faith. Surprisingly this was my favorite story in the book.

My other favorite aspect was the tracking of the faith development in Chuck Colson’s life. His journey to faith and even more his journey of a growing faith that led him to build deep roots with key faith influencers led to Colson becoming a strong apologist as the years went by.

I give The Colson Way 5 out of 5 stars. It wasn’t what I expected, but it was a valuable tool for my own faith journey. Like Owen Strachan I hope it connect with a millennial audience as well. My thanks to Book Look Bloggers and Thomas Nelson for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review just an honest one.

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Book Review: The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny with Jerry B. Jenkins

The right thing is seldom the easy thing” affirms Mike Matheny in his new book, “The Matheny Manifesto“. That’s why I love this book, it’s about the right thing in sports and even more in life. It’s also a book I wish I had read when my kids were younger and in sports.

I was one of those parents who yelled at referees … until I embarrassed my daughter and found the power of chewing gum to keep me watching and not yelling. Too bad I didn’t know the Matheny Manifesto — “Respect the Ump — even if He’s Blind“.

Yet what I found powerful about the book that I didn’t expect was Matheny’s humility. His favorite coach hasn’t coached in 40 years and was in basketball, not baseball. The quotes he shares from John Wooden make a powerful chapter. The fact that Matheny lifts up Wooden’s coaching even over his own, show the power of humility he applies to life. He titled chapter 9, “Don’t Think Less of Yourself, Think of Yourself Less.” He demonstrated such humility already in Chapter 6 when he writes about what a great coach looks like …. and it’s John Wooden.

This book is filled with an inside look at coaching baseball on the level of children all the way through the majors. That he develops baseball skills and even more life character in his coaching philosophy is a refreshing look at what sports can be for all ages.

For little league coaches and for parents with kids in sports or thinking about sports going old school is the best school for our day and time. I give The Matheny Manifesto 5 out of 5 stars. It was a good read for getting ready for baseball, it was a good read for getting ready for life. May the manifesto become the new standard for parents and players involved in the world of sports.

My thanks to Blogging for Books and Random House for a free copy to review. I didn’t have to give a positive review just an honest one. Thanks for an inspirational read about two of my favorite subjects: faith and sports!

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Soul Food for Friday: The 7 Words from the Cross

On Good Friday, I can’t think of greater food for the soul for this day or any day than the 7 words Jesus speaks from the cross. And if you really want to feed your soul, recognize that the death He dies, He dies to not only feed your soul but to save it for now and all eternity.

As a Christ follower, Good Friday is the hinge point of history. Everything turns on Jesus  death. What we do to God is not good, but what God does for us, how Jesus dies for us, that is the Good in Good Friday.

We know that Jesus does this for our good, when you look at the words He says from the cross and what they mean for us today.

File:Crucifixion Hans Baldung Grien.jpg

Thanks to Hans Baldung [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

1. “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” This word reveals His heart and His mission. He did not come to condemn, He came to save and He still comes into the hearts of those who will receive Him. I love this word. It’s my favorite of the seven. Forgiveness is the great gift God gives us. We don’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. We never could. And still He gives, and because He gives, we live.

2. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” This word reveals His grace and His gift of salvation for all. A desperate criminal next to Jesus, gets it. He didn’t at first, if you read Matthew or Mark. But at some point, this guy’s heart is changed. Was it the word of forgiveness? Was it the insults Jesus took? Was it the reality death was not far away? He asks for Jesus to throw a crumb of remembrance and Jesus gives him an eternal feast in heaven.

3. “Woman, here is your son,” … “Here is your mother.” This word reveals His love and His care for His family. Jesus in overwhelming pain, doesn’t look for His relief but His mother’s. Simeon had said there would come a day when her soul would be pierced by a sword. That day has arrived. With this word I discovered how important it is when in pain to care for the family around you. Funerals are not for those who die, but to comfort those who are left. Reach out in love with Jesus’ love when you find others in pain. Your love won’t be enough, His love will.

4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? This word reveals His pain and His price He paid for us. It’s the only word from the cross recorded by both Matthew and Mark. This word is also the first verse of Psalm 22. One method of Jewish interpretation of Scripture is that to quote one verse is to quote the whole Psalm. Want to go a little deeper in the Word this Good Friday? Read Psalm 22. (Read Isaiah 53, too.) You will think you are reading the Gospel accounts from Good Friday to Easter. The religious leaders gather to mock Jesus at the cross. Psalm 22 reveals Jesus will have the final word, and God’s word will be good.

5. “I am thirsty.” This word reveals His humanity and His hunger for God. If you read the Gospel accounts, Jesus turns down the offer of a drink when the crucifixion beginss. That drink had a narcotic in it, to ease the pain and lengthen the crucifixion, a method of dying by asphyxiation. You fought for every breath, pushing yourself up in pain. Longer crucifixions weren’t for the criminals, but for the crowds. A Roman reminder of this will happen to you if you do not follow Rome. Now near the end, Jesus seeks a drink. His next 2 words will be with a loud voice. Yet John also says this is to fulfill Scripture. Verses are used that point to looking to God for physical thirst and verses for spiritual thirst. So probably both. Jesus is God and Man hanging on the cross. His thirst is for His body and His spirit.

6. “It is finished.” This word reveals His payment and His victory. The Greek word tetelestai can mean accomplished, fulfilled and paid in full. His death will pay for our sins, and the payment will be complete. Tetelestai also refers to a cry of victory. Sin, death and the devil are going down. It is finished, not He is finished. Satan will think he has won this day, but Jesus knows His victory is here.

7. Father, into Your hand I commit My Spirit.” This word reveals His power and His passion. Jesus life is not taken from Him, He gives it up to His Father. He has the power over death, yours, mine, and His included. He has the passion to complete the mission, even if that means He dies, so that we live (and He too will live again!). This word can be our prayer as well. It is the prayer of wise leaders who commit their spirit, their lives and their leadership into God’s hands.

Jesus puts the Good in Good Friday. By the way, the one guy besides the criminal who gets it is a leader. Mark tells us that the centurion (the Roman soldier over a hundred) says at Jesus death, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

So which word is your favorite of the seven? And more importantly, have you grasped the day like the centurion?

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Soul Food for Friday: Good Friday Quotes for Remembering this Great Day, This Great Gift

Good Friday offers the best food for one’s soul. As we remember Jesus’ death, the price paid and the gift He brings, may these quotes for this Soul Food for Friday draw us closer to the cross and to the life we receive in Him.

“Every day of the year is a good day to think more deeply about Good Friday, for Good Friday is the drama of the love by which our every day is sustained.” — Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon

“If you are going to follow Jesus, you better look good on wood.” — Daniel Berrigan

“Now, who can call ‘Good Friday’ good? — A term too oft misunderstood — You, who were bought by the blood of His cross, You can call ‘Good Friday’ good.” — Johnny Hart B.C. comic

“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place call Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.” — John Stott, The Message of Galatians

“That center cross, silhouetted against the sky on Calvary’s hill, has an eternal message. God reconciled the whole world to himself by the death of his Son, and God can turn even the worst misfortune into an amazing blessing for those who trust in his love through Christ.” — Robert W. Stackel

“No matter what the storm clouds bring, you can face your pain with courage and hope. For two thousand years ago–six hours, one Friday–Christ firmly planted in bedrock three solid anchor points that we can all cling to. For the heart scarred with futility, that Friday holds purpose. For the life blackened with failure, that Friday holds forgiveness. And for the soul looking into the tunnel of death, that Friday holds deliverance.” — Max Lucado, Six Hours One Friday

“We have to go to the cross with Jesus every day. Religious people hang around the cross. Christians get on the cross. It’s a daily choice. The flesh doesn’t die easy. Self doesn’t go to the cross willingly. … As we die to ourselves his life will come out of us.” — Fred Wolfe

“These criminals represent us. One of them recognized Jesus for who he was and received him; Jesus promised that when he died he would be in heaven with him. The other man rejected Jesus and closed his heart. Unlike the first criminal, when he died he didn’t go to heaven. He went to hell. In that sense, these two men on either side of Jesus are just like every person. We either embrace Christ as our Savior and spend eternity with him, or we reject him and say, ‘I don’t believe it. I’ll have nothing to do with.’ And these people spend eternity separated from him.” — James MacDonald

“When we consider who were there, and when we are honest with ourselves, we know that we were there and that we helped to put Christ there. Because every attitude present on that hilltop that day is present in our midst now. Every emotion that tugs the human heart then, tugs the human heart still. Every face that was there is here too. Every voice that shouted then is shouting still. Every human being was represented on Calvary. Every sin was in a nail or the point of a spear or the thorns. And pardon for them all was in the blood that was shed.

“Nineteen hundred years have passed away. But the range of the centuries with our callused tears have not yet washed away the blood from the rotting wood of a deserted cross. Nor have the winds covered his footprints in the sands of Judea. Calvary still stands, and you and I erect the cross again and again and again every time we sin. The hammer blows are still echoing somewhere in the caverns in your heart and mine. Every time we deny him, every time we sin against him or fail to do what he commanded, he is being crucified again and again and again.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord? I was. Were you?” — Peter Marshall, Were You There?

As you celebrate Good Friday, what are you remembering that Jesus has done for you?

To meditate on the meaning of the 7 Words from the Cross, click here.

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A Joseph Christmas

This Advent I have been reading through Adam Hamilton’s, “The Journey: A Season of  Reflections“. It’s a companion to his book, The Journey.

One of my favorite insights I picked up from the book is about Joseph. Hamilton writes, “Unlike Mary, Joseph has no “lines”—we don’t read a single word he speaks in the Gospels. It is universally recognized that he played an important role in the life of Jesus, but there are no “hail Josephs” offered to him. He is the patron saint of those who serve and do the right thing without seeking any credit.”

The Journey: A Season of Reflections

Joseph’s not quoted, he simply serves. He doesn’t tweet, blog or post on Facebook. He simply serves. He has no tell all account that he gives in verbal or written form, he simply serves. Matthew tells us he is a righteous man. The Christmas story affirms that it’s true. Have yourself a Joseph Christmas, one ready to serve then be served. He passed that lesson along to his son as well. As Mark tells us, Jesus serves and gives his life as a ransom for many, and that includes you and me.

By the way I picked up this book up on November 19 thanks to DailyCheapReads.com under their free category. It now sells for $7.10 on Amazon. It’s a companion to Hamilton’s book, “The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem.” It was one of those free for a day books. It’s why I check Daily Cheap Reads on a daily basis, to see what’s available.

In addition to the great stories of the Bible, what else are you reading that is inspiring you this Advent season to get ready for Christmas?

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Soul Food for Friday: Lessons Learned from Mary

This week’s soul food for Friday draws us even closer to Christmas as we look to words about Mary and from Mary, the mother of Jesus:

“Mary’s story tells us that if the Scriptures don’t somehow pierce us like a sword, we’re not paying attention.” — Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk

“On the one hand Mary was just a girl, an immature and frightened girl who had the good sense to believe what an angel told her in what seemed like a dream. On the other hand, she was the mother of the Son of God, with faith enough to move mountains, to sing about the victories of her son as if he were already at the right hand of his father instead of a dollop of cells in her womb … When we allow God to be born in us, there is no telling, no telling at all, what will come out.” — Barbara Brown Taylor, Mixed Blessings

And one of the greatest Mary quotes of old time, Luke 1:38a“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”

And Mary’s Song, Luke 1:46-55, 46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,  49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—  holy is his name. 

50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;  he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones    but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,  even as he said to our fathers.”


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Thankful Even If …

Some of you have had a tough year. You’ve endured your share of criticism. Maybe you’ve lost a job. Maybe you’re going through a rough patch in your marriage. Now comes Thanksgiving. Can we thank God even when times are tough?

There used to be an old song, “Count Your Blessings, Name Them One By One.” We need to make lists of what we are thankful for – our families, friends, whatever we are thankful for. When times are tough, that’s when you need to remember everything God has given you.

My Most Thankful Day -- When I married Sharon

So here’s my Thanksgiving challenge, complete the following 2 sentences:

1. This year it is easy to be thankful for ____________.

For myself this year, it is easy to be thankful. I started a blog, and miraculously today you are reading it. My oldest daughter Laura got engaged, my youngest daughter Dana graduated from college. God has given me the greatest job in the world.   How about you? What is it easy for you to be thankful for this year?

The 2nd sentence completion might be a bit more challenging. It may be something you would never associate thanksgiving with. Perhaps it’s a loved one who passed away this year, or an unexpected medical diagnosis, or a financial issue, or maybe an area where instead of giving thanks, you need to pray.

This year it is most challenging to be thankful for ______________.

For myself, the challenging areas are minor: challenges of a tough economy in leading a church, friends battling illness, discovering some aches in my body that appear chronic.

A few years ago we attended my aunt’s funeral during Thanksgiving week. She had died suddenly. We had prayed for a miracle, thought we had gotten it when she came out of surgery, and a couple days later where celebrating God’s act, and then she died from a blood clot.

Yet in the challenge to give thanks, that is where we found the greatest comfort. We gave thanks for her life, for her love, for her baklava recipe, and for her faith in Christ that had wandered off during most of her adult years, but had come back the months before she died.

What I’ve learned is if I can’t thank God for what He has done. I begin to praise God for who I know He is, and that leads me to thanksgiving again. Habakkuk writes during a difficult time to give thanks. Judah’s a mess, not just economically, but also spiritually. God has spoken challenging words of what’s coming.

Habakkuk closes his book with these powerful words of Thanksgiving in Habakkuk 3:17-19a, 17Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (NIV 1984)

That’s the tale of Habakkuk’s day. That’s the power he discovered in being thankful even if …

How about you? What’s your Thanksgiving story this day? How would you fill Habakkuk’s “Thanksgiving Template” with your own story?

17Though ______________________ does not and there are no ________________________, though the ________________________________ fails and the ______________________ produce no ___________________________ … 18yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my _______________________________. 19The Sovereign LORD is my _______________________; he makes my __________________ like ____________________________, he enables me to ____________________________. 

Have a great Thanksgiving!

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