Monthly Archives: June 2011

How do you discover your sweet spot?

Book Review: Cure for the Common Life: Living in your Sweet Spot, by Max Lucado

How do you discover your sweet spot? Where are you the most effective, the most satisfied, the most fulfilled? Begin by asking yourself two questions—“What do you do well?” and “What do you enjoy doing?” The answer may very well surprise you, but it will also help you discover how God has uniquely wired you.

This is the main idea of Max Lucado’s book, Cure for the Common Life. It seeks to help the reader discover how God has uniquely gifted them and where they will be most satisfied and effective. Having gone through a workshop 10 years ago that employed those same two questions, I can personally attest to the “Ah ha!” moment of self-discovery that follows and how it changed the direction of my life.

Lucado’s book is organized around the statement, “Use your uniqueness to make a big deal out of God every day of your life.” The first third of the book helps the reader to discover their uniqueness. Lucado uses the acronym STORY to help explain how God has hardwired each individual with:

  • Strengths – unique gifts and abilities.
  • Topics – what you want to do with those gifts in order to make a contribution.
  • Optimal conditions – where you are most effective.
  • Relationships – who you want to work with; whether you are most effective working alone or with others.
  • Yes! – add them all together to discover your unique “YES! This is what I was created for” moment.

The appendices include several worksheets to help the reader work through these elements to discover their unique STORY.

The middle part of the book focuses on how to use your STORY to glorify God. The final third focuses on doing this every day of your life. One of the more helpful chapters is directed at helping parents discover their child(ren)’s uniqueness rather than forcing them into a preconceived mold of the parent’s choosing.

Along the way, Lucado includes a number of examples and illustrations from real people to help flesh out the concepts and see them in action.

Having read a number of volumes on this subject, I have to conclude that this is one of the most helpful ones. It takes material originally developed by Arthur Miller of SIMA International and presents it in understandable language for the average person.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Books


A Copernican shift in thinking

Book Review: It’s Not About Me: Rescue from the life we thought would make us happy, by Max Lucado

“What Copernicus did for the earth, God does for our souls.” Prior to Copernicus, people believed that the universe revolved around the earth. Copernicus changed that belief by pointing out that the earth and the rest of the universe revolves around the sun. Many people have the idea that life and meaning revolves around themselves. They are the center of their universe. In contrast, we are to live a God-centered life.

This mind shift lies at the heart of Max Lucado’s book, It’s Not About Me. We are to live lives that reflect God’s glory. Everything about our lives—our message, our bodies, our struggles, our successes, our thinking should point people towards God. This is the purpose for which we were created. It is in fulfilling this purpose that we find true meaning in life.

The book is vintage Lucado. Creative. Warm. Down to earth. Practical. Encouraging. Sound principles illustrated by believable stories. It is very short and can be read in one sitting. But it will cause you to reflect and ponder for many hours and days to come. The book includes a study guide in the back that can be used to take the principles deeper or to use within a small group discussion.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Books


Don’t Take the Bait

Everywhere I go, temptation is staring me in the face. I want to resist and walk away, but far too often I am like a moth drawn to a flame. Before I know it, I’ve succumbed and gotten burned.

Is it possible to gain victory? Or am I destined to live a defeated life?

Studying the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11 gives us insight both into Satan’s strategy as well as how Jesus was victorious. We can learn some principles we can use to gain victory as well.

God uses tests to prove our character. A test of any sort can have both a positive or negative outcome. It can prove how strong, healthy, and wise we are, or it can reveal how weak, sickly, or dumb we are. Temptation in and of itself is not bad. It’s how we respond to it. Just as Jesus learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8), so tests can strengthen our character rather than defeat us.

Temptation often comes immediately after a success. Jesus’ temptation came immediately after his baptism (Matthew 3:13-17). Study the lives of Abraham, Moses, David, and others and you discover the same pattern. Rather than relax and let down our guard after a success, we need to remain vigilant and on guard against the enemy.

Satan will often tempt us on the last thing God taught us. During Jesus’ baptism, God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17). Satan began his temptation with “If you are the Son” (Matthew 4:3). He employed the same strategy with Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1). Don’t be surprised if he uses it on you.

Satan’s strategy has not changed since the Garden of Eden.


Genesis 3

Matthew 4

1 John 2:16

Appeal to personal appetite You may eat of any tree (3:1) You may eat by changing stones to bread (4:3) The Lust of the Flesh
Appeal to personal gain You will not die (3:4) You can do a miracle to gain attention (4:6) The Lust of the Eyes
Appeal to power or glory You will be like God (3:5) You can have the world’s kingdoms without suffering (4:8‑9) The Pride of Life

Victory comes as we depend on God’s Word. Jesus gained victory over Satan by quoting Scripture. “It is written” was his response to each temptation. Christ’s example should motivate us to memorize Scripture as well.

Victory comes as we depend on God’s power. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted (Matthew 4:1). After his experience, the angels ministered to him (Matthew 4:11). If Jesus needed God’s power to be victorious, what makes us think we can face the enemy on our own?

Jesus’ victory over Satan reveals a four-part strategy for resisting temptation. We should:

  • Resist the devil
  • in the power of the Spirit
  • through the guidance of the Word
  • to accomplish the will of God



If you were an animal

Book Review: Surviving your Serengeti: 7 Skills to Master Business and Life, by Stefan Swanepoel

Surviving your Serengeti is a creative, well-written, inspiring book designed to help the reader discover their main survival strategy. Written as a fable, it tells the story of a couple who won an African safari in a sales contest. Facing business and career challenges back home in Los Angeles, they arrive in the Serengeti Plains of East Africa weary and distracted.

While there, they witness the annual migration of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles, a 1,000-mile journey filled with hunger, thirst, predators, and exhaustion. Their guide helps them understand the unique strengths of each of the animals that enable them to survive when the journey becomes too difficult.

There is the . . .

  • Enduring wildebeest – endurance is the steadfast capacity to hold on for one more day
  • Strategic lion – strategy is the road map you need to define and achieve your goals
  • Enterprising crocodile – an enterprising person explores all options and boldly seizes every opportunity
  • Efficient cheetah – efficiency is the optimization of all resources to achieve the best results
  • Graceful giraffe – grace is more than style and finesse, it’d doing the right thing
  • Risk-taking mongoose – taking calculated risks is an essential part of every journey
  • Communicating elephant – effective communication is the art of successfully delivering your message

The book is designed to encourage the reader that everyone can survive his or her own personal Serengeti, no matter the difficulty or challenge. The author applies the principles broadly so they can be used in both business and personal life. Through questions at the end of each chapter, the author also tries to help the reader discover what animal they are, or rather, what their main survival skill might be, and what strengths will drive them forward when life becomes difficult.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on June 23, 2011 in Books


Forgiveness and reconciliation

Thought-provoking quotes by Charles Williams on the subject of forgiveness:

It is easier often to forgive than to be forgiven; yet it is fatal to be willing to be forgiven by God and to be reluctant to be forgiven by men.

Many promising reconciliations have broken down because while both parties come prepared to forgive, neither party come prepared to be forgiven.

Charles Williams (1886-1945) was an English poet, novelist, theologian, and literary critic. He was also a member of the Inklings (other members included C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien).

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Posted by on June 23, 2011 in Quotes, Theology


Summer skies at United

Today’s beautiful blue sky makes for a unique background for United EFC’s steeple. A lone bird even got in the act.


T. D. Jakes on Sermon Preparation

In an interview with Preaching Magazine, Pastor T. D. Jakes explained his four-step process of preparing a sermon. I found his description to be both helpful and encouraging.

I have a recipe for preaching that I have used for twenty-five years–it’s not original. I read it somewhere. I can’t remember where, but it stayed with me. It is a four step process.

The first one is to study yourself full. Gather as much information as possible on the subject that you are going to speak. The second one–which I think is perhaps even more critical than the first–is to think yourself clear. If you study yourself full but don’t think yourself clear, when you get up to speak you give a lot of facts but the facts have no continuity. I call it theological indigestion–you’re just sputtering up information that’s not put into a palatable format. The first one is study yourself full, the second one thing yourself clear.

The third one is pray yourself hot. If you don’t have a real passion about it, you can’t preach effectively. If it’s not hot to you, it won’t be hot to them. The fourth one, which is critical, it is let yourself go. Don’t be inhibited in the pulpit. You’re just an instrument. Don’t be so self-conscious that you’re not God-conscious. If you will let yourself go on stage and you are relaxed, then that relaxes the congregation. If the pastor is tight, the congregation is tight. Then the whole hour, or whatever it is, is laborious because nobody is comfortable. It is like riding with somebody–if you’ve ever gotten into a car with a driver who is nervous, their nervousness is contagious. You can feel them holding the wheel and shaking, and you’re sitting up there thinking something is wrong. That’s what happens when somebody mans the pulpit who will not let themselves go. If you study yourself full, think yourself clear, pray yourself hot, and let yourself go, you have a great experience.

“Preaching to mend broken lives: An interview with T. D. Jakes,” cited in Preaching with Power: Dynamic insights from twenty top pastors, edited by Michael Duduit


Posted by on June 20, 2011 in Books, Preaching, Quotes


Comparing the baptism of John & the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:8)

I found myself in Mark 1:1-11 this week as I started a new sermon series in the Gospel of Mark. In verse eight, John the Baptizer makes a curious statement, “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” To help me make sense of this statement, I made the following chart to compare and contrast these two baptisms.



Baptism of John

Baptism of Jesus



those who were waiting for the Messiah to come


those who believed the message of the gospel; that Jesus died for our sins



John baptized people in the Jordan River

Holy Spirit:

Jesus’ baptism would not take place until the Book of Acts, following the resurrection


Outward sign:

when you come up out of the water, you appear wet, a sure sign of baptism

Inward reality:

when the Holy Spirit takes control of your life, you appear different from the inside out



the process of being baptized by another person


something that only God can do


your wet condition will not last forever as you will eventually become dry


God’s promise is that he will not leave us or forsake us; once the Holy Spirit takes up residence, he abides with us



John’s baptism got people ready to meet the Messiah


Jesus promised that we would receive power when the Holy Spirit came (Acts 1:8); this power would enable us to live the Christian life and to be witnesses for Christ




Posted by on June 19, 2011 in Bible Study, Preaching, Scripture


Can one person really make a difference?

People are often told that one person can make a difference. Most of us, however, tend to treat that sentiment as a trite cliche. If we are honest, we confess that we are not smart enough, rich enough, or creative enough to accomplish anything worthwhile. We conclude that we have nothing to offer. And besides that, the problems of the world are too big anyway.

In his book, The Hole in our Gospel, author Richard Stearns dispels that notion with an example from the book of Nehemiah.

The result was amazing. The great wall that had lain in ruin for more than 150 years was rebuilt in fifty-two days! But how? One stone at a time. In Nehemiah 3 alone, we read of more than forty different people and groups who each rebuilt the section of the wall that was nearest to them. Each person did the doable, the part that he could accomplish, that which was within his own reach. Then their collective power, when it was harnessed and channeled in alignment with God’s will–changed everything. Together they did the impossible–in less than two months.

By ourselves, perhaps we cannot make a difference. But together, anything is possible. If each of us does the doable, then together we might be able to accomplish the impossible. Certainly something to consider and pray about.

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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Books, Personal growth, Quotes, Scripture


Airport fun

Ever get stranded at an airport? Looking for creative, fun things to do while waiting for your next flight? Enjoy the creative video put together by two aspiring film makers when their flight was canceled at DFW. Funny and creative, and yet surprising they got away with it. Their antics apparently prompted the DFW officials to increase their security, as the following article points out.

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Posted by on June 17, 2011 in News stories