Category Archives: Books

The difference between delegating task and empowering leaders

Book Review: Behind Gold Doors-Five Legends Offer the Keys to Empowering Leadership, by Lonnie Pacelli

How do you become a more effective leader? Who can you turn to for answer? Are there mentors who can help you understand your weaknesses and help you to strengthen them? These are the questions that lie behind Lonnie Pacelli’s latest book, Behind Gold Doors-Five Legends Offer the Keys to Empowering Leadership.

The author has written a business parable, along the line of books authored by Patrick Lencioni. It is the story of Sam, who has recently been promoted to the level of manager in his company. During his annual performance review, he fully expects to be fired since he peers and reports have all painted him in a negative light. Instead, his boss gives him a gold card and sends him to leadership development class. During his time in the class, he meets Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Susan B. Anthony. Each historical figure shares insights on how to develop and empower the leaders under you.

The book is well written and the characters seem believable. You get a sense of their personalities not only in what they say, but how they say it. The book is informative and encouraging.

I received a Kindle edition of this book for free from the author in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on December 4, 2019 in Books, Leadership


Practical help in planning for retirement

Book Review: Reimagine Retirement: Planning and Living for the Glory of God, by C. J. Cagle

“Word hard, save diligently, invest wisely; but please don’t retire, at least not in the most traditional sense of the word. Instead, reimagine retirement as something different from what the world envisions.”

That statement summarizes the message of author C. J. Cagle’s practical and helpful book, Reimagine Retirement: Planning and Living for the Glory of God. As he explains in the introduction,

I have three main goals for this book:

First, that you will be inspired to reimagine a retirement that rejects modern worldly values and priorities and, realizing that God has called you for a higher purpose than the full-time pursuit of pleasure and self-fulfillment, instead reimagine a retirement focused on living for the glory and honor of God and the good of others.

Second, to help you wisely apply biblical principles and practices so you can reimagine a retirement with dignity—one with your essential spending needs met for as long as you live, perhaps with a surplus to share, while continually trusting in God as the ultimate source of your daily provision.

And third, if and when you decide to retire, to reimagine living in a way that is consistent with kingdom principles—with paid or unpaid work relationally focused activities, voluntary involvement and commitments in your church and community, and continued faithful devotion to God and his people, for as long as he give you the ability to do so.

The flow of the book follows the author’s stated goals. The first third strives to explain the current idea of retirement and contrasts that with what Scripture says on the subject. The second part of the book gives practical ideas how to plan, save, and invest for retirement, as well as deciding when to retire. The final section focuses on how to live in retirement and leave a legacy for those who will follow you.

The is a book that would be helpful to read at two different points in your life. Since the bulk of the book focuses on planning, saving, and investing, it would be helpful to read early in your working career. It would help you start on a strong footing and plan for the long term. It would also be helpful to read in the decade before you retire, so that you develop a proper mindset of how to continue to serve the cause of Christ in your retirement years.

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Publishing through the B&H/Lifeway Bloggers program The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on November 12, 2019 in Books, Quotes, Retirement


A search for redemption inside the L.A. film scene

Book Review: Unscripted: A Novel, by Davis Bunn

Broken people searching for redemption making a film about broken people searching for redemption. That phrase could summarize Davis Bunn’s latest novel.

The two main characters in the story are broken people. Danny Byrd is a Hollywood line producer who is well known for being someone who gets things done on time and under budget. That is, until his business partner steals his investors’ money, ruins Danny’s reputation, and leaves him bankrupt and in jail.

Megan Pierce is an L.A. lawyer who has worked hard to make a name for herself in the courtroom. However, she has become disillusioned with the unethical practices of her demanding, snobbish bosses. A unique opportunity to make a difference lands in her lap, but she is not quite sure what “it” is or what to do with it.

When Megan is asked to defend Danny and get him out of jail, they both discover that they are each other’s best hope for redemption and a second chance.

The book is a well written look into the fictional world of Hollywood film making. The author brings the story to life and gives a vivid look behind the scenes of the film industry. There are plots and counterplots, double dealing, struggles, and love all mixed together. The author provides an accurate portrayal of those who struggle with grief and past failures and what they need to do to find healing and move forward. While not overtly Christian or preachy, the book contains two minor characters who are Bible believers and who encourage Danny to look to the Scriptures for hope.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on October 2, 2019 in Books


Guidelines for following Jesus in a digital world

Book Review: Faith For Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon, by David Kinnaman & Mark Matlock

How do we disciple young adults in a digital age? How do we encourage people who are interconnected by their smart phones, tablets, and computers to follow Jesus? Those are the questions explored by authors David Kinnaman & Mark Matlock in their book, Faith For Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon. The book is the culmination of a groundbreaking, three year research study conducted by the Barna Organization.

Ancient Babylon was the pagan-but-spiritual, hyperstimulated, multicultural, imperial crossroads that became the unwilling home of Judean exiles, including the prophet Daniel, in the sixth century BCE. But digital Babylon is not a physical place. It is the pagan-but-spiritual, hyuperstimualted, multicultural, imperial crossroads that is the virtual home of every person with Wi-Fi, a data plan, or—for most of us—both.

In a previous era, the church had success with mass-producing disciples using big rallies and crusades and large events where many young people came forward to pledge their lives to Christ. But in today’s digital Babylon, we must get back to making faithful, resilient disciples one life at a time.

To accomplish that goal, the authors suggest five key practices:

  • Practice 1 – To form a resilient identify, experience intimacy with Jesus. The first practice answers the question, “Who am I, really?”
  • Practice 2 – In a complex and anxious age, develop the muscles of cultural discernment. The second practice addresses deep questions related to “How should I live?”
  • Practice 3 – When isolation and mistrust are the norms, forge meaningful, intergenerational relationships. The third practice lays a foundation for one of the fundamental questions people ask, “Am I really known and loved by anyone?”
  • Practice 4 – To ground and motivate an ambitious generation, train for vocational discipleship. The fourth practice builds a foundation to help people wrestle with this issue, “What am I called to do with my life?”
  • Practice 5 – Curb entitlement and self-centered tendencies by engaging in countercultural mission. The final practice helps us address gnawing questions like, “What is the significance of life?” and “What kind of legacy am I leaving?”

Not only do the authors identify and explain the problems, they give practical solutions that can be implemented by churches to help solve the problem. Unlike some books, they see the church as being a key element in meeting the needs and moving forward a solution. The authors combine research, statistics, biblical insights, and personal illustrations to explain and flesh out the concepts and principles.

While you may not agree with everything the authors say, the book will challenge your thinking. Since we live in a new digital age, we need new strategies and approaches to make disciples. A challenging and helpful book.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on September 7, 2019 in Books, Faith, Quotes


Invest in your employees

Book Review: Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture that Wins the Hearts of Customers, by Dee Ann Turner

Dee Ann Turner spent 33 years working in the corporate office of Chick-fil-A. The last 17 years were spent as the Vice President of Talent, where she was a key leader in creating and sustaining the remarkable culture that is the guiding force of Chick-fil-A’s success. She has taken her years of experience and poured them into Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture that Wins the Hearts of Customers, where she explains the importance of “selecting and growing talent and creating a healthy, compelling, even remarkable culture in an organization.”

As she explains in the introduction,

This book is full of both principles and stories. Remarkable cultures are created and nurtured through the power of stories. This book will describe to you how to conduct an effective behavioral interview, and it will explain the steps to giving feedback and being an influential mentor. It will also educate you on the essential elements of a remarkable culture and how to inspire your organization to be willing to do the hard work to attain one. Remarkable cultures are based on timeless principles, and those principles, like ancient truths, are conveyed through the power of stories that contain them.

The book explains the importance of servant leadership and how leaders must model the qualities that want to develop in their employees. It stresses not only the importance of hiring the right people and making sure their gift mix fits the need within the organization, but also training employees to be effective and giving them feedback. Rather than putting the customer first, the author stresses putting your employees first. If you have the right people and trained them in the right values and methods, they will meet the needs of the customers.

The bulk of the author’s examples come from her years of experience working for Chick-fil-A. She also includes examples from other organizations and industries. She also weaves in biblical principles along with her stories and examples. While the concepts and principles are transferable, I kept having to think about how I would implement them in my setting since I don’t work in the fast food, quick service industry.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on September 5, 2019 in Books, Leadership, Mentors, Quotes


Secret places and secret people

Book Review: The Gryphon Heist, by James R. Hannibal

Combine CIA officers with shady civilians with thieves and grifters, weave together a plot involving arms dealers selling a super weapon that threatens Washington D. C., and tie it together with a struggler to forgive, and you have the plot and characters for a fast paced thriller.

James R. Hannibal has penned a story with Talia Inger, a rookie CIA case officer, who is assigned to the forgotten backwaters of Eastern Europe, a department only known as “Other.” Her seemingly innocuous assignment is to help a young, charming Moldovan executive secure his designs for a revolutionary defense technology. When she partners with a shady civilian partner, Adam Tyler, things go awry and Talia is catapulted into a world where rules don’t apply and she is not sure who to trust.

The Gryphon Heist is well written and thoroughly enjoyable. In addition to being a compelling page turner, the author weaves in spiritual principles involving the topic of forgiveness. A very enjoyable read.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on September 3, 2019 in Books


Continue the Education

“If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow” is the first of the seven maxims in Prof. Howard Hendricks’ book, Teaching to Change Lives. To be an effective teacher/preacher, Hendricks argues, you must be a lifelong learner.

One of the occupational hazards of ministry is that it is easy to fall into the trap of only studying for the next lesson or sermon. You have to be intentional about widening your field of reading and learning or else your field of interest and expertise will become far too narrow.

Over the past couple of years, I have personally benefitted from some of the online courses offered by Dallas Theological Seminary. I am able to learn from different professors as they teach on a topic or book of the Bible. I recently finished the course on the book of Acts and am now starting Understanding God’s Covenants. The courses are free to everyone.

I also try to listen to audiobooks, lectures, or sermons while I am exercising. I just finished listening to The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, a classic tale of revenge and redemption. I just started listening again to The Best of Prof, a collection of sermons and lectures by Dr. Howard Hendricks.

I also try to read eclectically. I am working my way through Knowing God, by J. I. Packer, in order to sharpen my theological understanding. In addition, I am in book five, Grail, of the six-volume series, The Pendragon Cycle, by Stephen R. Lawhead, which is a retelling of the King Arthur stories. By reviewing books for different publishers, I am exposed to new and different authors. Through the courses I teach for Regent University, I become acquainted with various authors and textbooks as well as having to answer questions of students.

The online courses, audiobooks, theology, and novels is in addition to studying the book of Hebrews which I am preaching through on Sunday morning. I am also developing lessons on leadership development for a conference in Moscow in October.

I want to continue my education and growth so that I have something to offer. I don’t want to fall into the trap of relying on old lessons and greatest hits. I want to stay fresh and growing.