52 ideas for 2017…

Forget about resolutions… Here’s some ideas for you for 2017:

  • Read through the Bible (or the New Testament).
  • Fast from something occasionally (food, Facebook, TV, etc.).
  • Make a new friend, or two, or more.
  • Eat something you’ve never eaten before.
  • Write a book.
  • Write an old-fashioned snail mail letter to an old friend.
  • Establish a new habit of walking with your spouse or parent or sibling.
  • Eat meat from an animal you killed yourself. (I accomplished this idea this week, with a successful pheasant hunt).
  • Plant a garden.
  • Read more. Much more.
  • Get on the floor and wrestle with your kids or grandkids.
  • Take some ibuprofen the next morning.
  • Read a biography.
  • Videotape an interview of one of your older relatives.
  • Eat at local restaurants (non-chain) as much as possible, especially when traveling.
  • Give away more money.
  • Play a game of UNO with your family.
  • Play a game of Killer UNO with your family.
  • Return to playing regular UNO with your family so you will love each other again.
  • Clean out your closet or garage or attic or basement.
  • Watch an episode of the Andy Griffith show.
  • Spend an evening with your old friends reminiscing about how good things used to be, without looking at your phones one single time.
  • Enjoy a sunrise.
  • Take a Sunday afternoon drive with your family.
  • Pray more. Much more.
  • Play more board games with family and friends.
  • Learn a new skill.
  • Give away some of your stuff.
  • Pay for the order for the person behind you in the drive-thru.
  • Make sure they are not a family of six or more.
  • Take more pictures.
  • Write out your goals (make them Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-keyed)
  • Go to worship every weekend unless Providentially hindered.
  • Design your life plan, no matter how old you are.
  • Ask a trusted friend to keep you accountable about what matters in your life. Offer to do the same for them.
  • Think of someone who you think is probably lonely and either call them or go visit them or meet them for lunch.
  • Laugh at yourself more.
  • When you go to church, ask people, “How can I pray for you?” Then, pray for them on the spot.
  • Take a bubble bath. When you get in the bath, dramatically say, “Calgon, take me away!”
  • Men, grow a beard at least once this year.
  • Women, let your man grow a beard at least once this year.
  • Teenagers, your parents really do know a few things. Listen to them. They love you. They really do.
  • Go watch a ballgame at your alma mater. Wear the colors and cheer for those kids like they are yours.
  • Start each day by saying the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not the only great prayer, but it is the one prayer Jesus told us to pray.
  • Try to find some times to turn off your phone.
  • Sing in the shower.
  • Read the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
  • On August 21st, be in a location to experience the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in the United States in over 80 years!
  • Go Christmas caroling at a nursing home or retirement home.
  • Go to a museum.
  • Enjoy a sunset.
  • Make things right with God.

A Christmas Family Worship Guide


Pick one or more Scriptures to read:

Matthew 1:18 – 2:12

Luke 1:5 – 2:21

Isaiah 7:14

Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 60:1-3

John 3:16

Galatians 4:4-7


Possible prayer topics:

  • Thanks to God for sending Jesus
  • Prayer for the missionaries who are telling others about Jesus
  • Comfort for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones this Christmas
  • “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)
  • Orphans and widows (James 1:27)



> Have someone share their testimony of how they were born again.

> Share your favorite Christmas memory.

> Find an exciting Christian testimony on video (ex. www.iamsecond.com)


Have someone lead a Christmas song with piano or guitar or a cappella. Or use a CD or a video from Youtube and sing along. Suggested songs:

“O Come All Ye Faithful”

“Joy to the World”

“ Go Tell It on the Mountain”

“O Holy Night”

Some Good Ground Rules for the Giving and Receiving of “Prophetic Words”

Following up on my message this past Sunday on the gift of prophecy, here is some excellent counsel from Pastor J. D. Greear on how to give and to receive a prophetic word:

Ground Rules for Giving Words

  1. Never claim the authority of God on your words, even if you feel convinced the Holy Spirit might be speaking through you.
  2. Prophetic speech is strongest when tied to actual Scripture.
  3. The gift of prophecy has a purpose: building up the church and guiding in mission. Use it only for those things.

Ground Rules for Receiving Words

  1. It’s okay to be a little skeptical.
  2. Ask, “Does this word contradict what God has said in the Scriptures?”
  3. Ask, “Does this word accord with what I know God is doing in my life?”
  4. Ask, “Does this word glorify God or the one giving it?”

Greear has additional, helpful material under each of these points.It’s all found in chapter 10, pages 145-149 of his excellent book on the Holy Spirit, titled Jesus, Continued…

The Gift of Prophecy for Today: A Story from J. D. Greear

This morning at Harvest Bible Chapel of Jacksonville I preached a message from Acts 2.17-18 on the gift of prophecy. The title of the message is “What to Expect in the Last Days, pt. 1.” I shared an amazing story from Pastor Matt Chandler about an experience with the gift of prophecy that he had many years ago. Here is another story from Pastor J. D. Greear’s book, Jesus Continued:

“Justin, a young man in my church, told me a story recently about an Indian woman he observed sitting by herself in a city park. He had never seen her before, but had the inexplicable urge to go tell her that though her brother had recently died, god loved her and would never forsake her. He told me that this kind of thing never happens to him but the impression was so strong . . . still, he just couldn’t bring himself to go up to her to say it! What if he was wrong? So he demurred. Several hours later, he ran into the same woman at a Starbucks in another part of the city, and he considered this to be God gently giving him another chance. So he held his breath, walked up to her and said, “Ma’am, we’ve never met, and I’m not sure why I feel this way . . . but I had the sense that God wanted me to tell you . . .” and he gave her the message.

Justin said that when he finished, she stared at him with wide eyes for several, terribly long seconds. Then she dropped her head and began to cry. She said, “How did you know? I thought no one in this city knew. Actually . . . he was not really my brother, but my cousin, but he grew up in my house and I always thought of him as my brother. I even introduced him to others that way. He died last week.” She was Hindu and had just moved away from her family in India to the United States. Justin told her that he could only guess that God cared for her and had a plan for her and her family. Eventually, through further conversation, the lady came to profess Christ as her Savior.”              (J. D. Greear, Jesus Continued…, pages 143-144)

This is the gift of prophecy in operation today. Echoing Matt Chandler, for those who say that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit ended around 100 A.D., I say “If this wasn’t God, then who else can get the credit? Satan? Last time I checked he wasn’t in the redemption business!”

Regarding the Media’s Shock at Last Night’s Historic Upset and the Need for Integrity Among Politicians and Journalists

As a pastor, I try not to wade too much into politics, but I refuse to refrain from commenting occasionally on the subject. Now is one of those occasions. I am not going to communicate any happiness or distress at the outcome of this election. I was honestly disappointed that these two candidates were the best the leading two parties could put forth.

I’ll start by saying (in case you have successfully ignored the news) that last night Donald Trump shocked most of the world, and seemingly the entire Democratic Party, by defeating Hillary Clinton for the highest office in the land. Although it looks like Trump has probably lost the popular vote, he has handily defeated Clinton on the electoral map.


I tried to stay up last night to witness the final conclusion of the matter, but my eyelids wouldn’t cooperate. When I went to sleep at a little after 1:00 a.m. (EST), the New York Times had projected an almost 100% chance that Trump would win.

When Trump announced his candidacy so many moons ago, I was one who never thought he would actually win the Republican nomination, let alone the Presidency.  However, as he stormed through the primaries and won the Republican nomination, I began to realize he should not be underestimated.

The Media “Experts” Speechless

As I sat in bed with my computer, going back and forth between CNN and Fox News (both were providing free live streaming of their coverage), I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the shock and confusion of the media pundits. It was almost like they hadn’t prepared any talking points for Trump winning easily, so certain were they of only three options: (1) Clinton winning easily, (2) Clinton winning a close race, and, least likely, (3) Trump surprisingly pulling out a squeaker. They never dreamed that Trump would actually “flip” any blue states.

Once it was clear that Trump was going to win, they started trying to put into words how this could have happened. And for the most part, they were clueless. They couldn’t figure out how they could have missed so badly. Using a baseball analogy, it’s not that the media swung and missed. They weren’t even in the right ballpark.

Why the Media Could Not Envision a Trump Victory

Here’s why I think the media missed it.

(1) They underestimated how much of America is sick and tired of the political establishment. And rightly so. The American people haven’t forgotten when their representatives in Washington voted themselves a raise right in the middle of a recession (2008). The American people don’t have so short of a memory as to forget when their representatives exempted themselves from the increasingly not-so-affordable Affordable Healthcare Act that they thrust on the rest of us. The American people haven’t forgotten that their representatives passed that legislation before they, the lawmakers, even knew what was in it. Remember Pelosi’s famous words:”We have to pass it to know what’s in it!” As more than one person has pointed out, by choosing the political outsider, Trump, it’s as if America shouted to the political establishment, “You’re fired!”

Continue reading Regarding the Media’s Shock at Last Night’s Historic Upset and the Need for Integrity Among Politicians and Journalists

Bible Rebinding Specialists

I personally own three Bibles that I have had rebound, two by Diego Caloca in California and one by Leonard’s in Indiana. I’m increasingly asked about this subject and thought it would be good to provide a list of Bible rebinding specialists. By providing this list, I am not personally endorsing all their work. As mentioned I have only used Deigo Caloca and Leonard’s, and were pleased with their work. That said, I know of other pastors and Christians who have used some of these other companies and have been pleased with their work as well.

The two companies I have used:
Caloca Bible Rebinds – https://calocabible.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/CalocaBR
Leonard’s Books – http://www.leonardsbooks.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/leonardsbooks/?fref=ts
McSpadden Book Binding- http://www.mcspaddenbookbindery.com/

Summer Reading Challenge: American History

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From Memorial Day to Independence Day my patriotism swells, and for the past few years I have, therefore, found Summer to be a great season to reflect on our nation’s history by reading books in the American History genre, particularly works related to American military history.
Why not join me this year in some American History reading goals for this summer? I challenge you to join me. I’ve picked out a five books I plan to read this summer.
SUMMER 2016 American History Reading List
Valley Forge by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen – Historical fiction. Part of the George Washington trilogy. I recently read To Try Men’s Souls in this series. I’m hungry for more.
Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan by Doug Stanton – I have yet to much, if any, post-9/11 American military history so I picked this one out by an author I’ve previously enjoyed (In Harm’s Way).
Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew – I’ve always loved nail-biting submarine movies, like The Hunt for Red October, Crimson Tide, and U-571. But I have never read a good book on the subject. This one looks like it fits the bill.
Decision Points by George W. Bush – Grabbed this one for a buck at the library fundraiser. So far… not bad. Just a few chapters in, though.
Badger Boy by Elmer Kelton – Western Historical Fiction – Much more fiction than history, but Kelton seeks to also accurately educate the reader on Texas Ranger history. This is book 2 in his Texas Ranger series. Book 1, The Buckskin Line, totally rocked. Loved it.
So will you join me in making this a summer of patriotic reading? If these particular titles don’t interest you, then below is a list of books I’ve enjoyed in the past that you might consider.Many, if not most, are available at your local public library. Or if you prefer to own your own copies, I’ve found amazon.com (especially if you have Amazon Prime) and abehbooks.com to be excellent sites for purchasing books.
If you want to join us, go to the Facebook group I’ve set up titled “2016 Summer Reading Challenge: American History.” Hope to see you there!
Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick – Separate the wheat from the chaff in the remarkable story of the Pilgrims. Probes the profound hardship and suffering for the sake of religious freedom and economic dreams.
1776 by David McCullough – The title says it all. If you’ve never read McCullough, you are in for a treat. He is a phenomenal popular level historian.
Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis – Really helps you understanding the political tensions and historical background of the American Revolutionary period. Our Founding Fathers were united in the cause for freedom from the British crown, but not much else. A real eye opener for those who hold to a naive, idealistic view of the Founding Fathers. And yet, as a Christian, it increasingly affirms my view that God’s Providence oversaw the establishment of this amazingly blessed nation.
To Try Men’s Souls by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen – A historical novel based on the true story of Washington crossing the Delaware. Gingrich and Forstchen make the characters come to life with imagined dialogue of key characters in the events, seeking to be true to their character and the setting. Very enjoyable approach to history, especially for those who consider reading history to be a dry exercise.
Manhunt by James Swanson – Easily one of my favorite history books of all time. A true page turner. You probably know the story of the assassination of Lincoln, but how well do you know the details of the hunt for his assassin? Hearing it in detail, and told so well, makes this book special.
Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard – For quite some time I was not really interested in this book because I had already read Manhunt by James Swanson and thought that it would basically rehash the same material. I was wrong and glad to see the difference. The two books would actually make a great combination, reading this one first. Manhunt zeroes in on the 11 days between the assassination of Lincoln and the killing of Booth. It is riveting. But Killing Lincoln spends the bulk of the book (well over 3/4s) on the events leading up to and including the assassination. I especially enjoyed the telling of the close of the war. Fantastic read.
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larsen– Fascinating historical account of the William Dodd family’s time in Berlin, when Dodd was U. S. Ambassador to Germany (mid-1933 to late 1937). Dodd and his family witnessed the rise of Hitler and Nazi power, as well as the early samples of Hitler’s despotic, cruel rule. Dodd’s first-hand experience led him to champion a strong interventionist position as well as prophetic accuracy concerning Hitler’s actions in regard to Jewish extermination and European domination. If Roosevelt’s government (as well as other European democracies) would have heeded this man’s dire warnings, millions of lives would have been spared.
     Especially riveting are chapters 52 and 53 in which Larson laments the remarkable descent into depravity and how it occurred unchallenged. It is frightening and should serve as a reminder of just how fragile democracy, and our rights, really are. “Throughout that first year in Germany, Dodd had been struck again and again by the strange indifference of the populace and of the moderate elements in the government to accept each new oppressive decree, each new act of violence, without protest. It was as if he had entered the dark forest of a fairy tale where all the rules of right and wrong were upended.”
To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy – It was with great anticipation that I picked up the first hand account of America’s most decorated WWII soldier, Audie Murphy. The short Irish Texan was gifted with a quick mind, endurance, determination,  grit, and courage. Story after story of battlefield drama fill the pages. If Audie’s version of the events weren’t backed up by eyewitnesses one would suspect that he might be guilty of not just stretching the truth, but inventing stories that feature himself as the hero. At one point I was honestly thinking, “There is no way one guy does that much, and there is no way that one man is that lucky.”
     So, provided that his stories are really true, which at this point I have no evidence to believe that they are not, his was truly a remarkable, amazing, almost unbelievable, military career. I love the ending of the book: “Gradually it becomes clear. I will find the kind of girl of whom I once dreamed. I will learn to look at life through uncynical eyes, to have faith, to know love. I will learn to work in peace as in war. And finally – finally, like countless others, I will learn to live again.”
Hitler in the Crosshairs by John Woodbridge and Maurice Possley – John Woodbridge, a professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, tells the story of Teen Palm, who was a close friend of his father, Pastor Charles Woodbridge. Woodbridge led Palm to saving faith the Lord Jesus a few years before World War II.
     Teen went on to serve as an infantry officer in the war. In the process of liberating Munich, he actually lifted a prized souvenir: one of Hitler’s favorite pistols, a gold-plated Walther which had been a 50th birthday present to the dictator from the Walther family. Upon returning to the U. S., after the war, Palm presented the priceless pistol to Pastor Woodbridge as a gift.
     But the book is not really about the pistol. It is about the faith and heroism of Teen Palm. Because details are limited, and because Palm was a typical WWII veteran who preferred not to talk about his war experiences, the authors are not left with enough first-hand details of Palm’s experience to produce a lengthy volume around his compelling story. So a considerable amount of the book is a retelling of the events of the European theater in relation to Palm’s division. The lacking personal details are the weakness of this book. But do not be mistaken, I enjoyed this book.
Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley – I was so excited when I found out the movie was being made. But as much as I love Clint Eastwood (Director), it was, as often is the case, an example of how the movie could not come close to measuring up to the book. Read the book and skip the movie. Destined to be a WWII classic.
Flyboys: A True Story of Courage by James Bradley – They did not make a movie of this one. Thankfully. If you ever let political naysayers cause you to doubt the heroic war story of President George H. W. Bush, Bradley puts those doubts to rest. Bush is one of several war heroes who are chronicled in this outstanding WWII effort by Bradley.
Biggest Brother: The Life Of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led The Band of Brothers by Larry Alexander – After watching the HBO series, “Band of Brothers” I desperately wanted to learn more about this phenomenal American named Dick Winters. Larry Alexander scratched that itch. Warning: If you have read a lot of Stephen Ambrose on Easy Company then there is a lot of overlap, but Alexander still provides some insights into the man you won’t get from Ambrose.
Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose – If you are like me and loved the HBO series, “Band of Brothers” then this book is for you. That said, this is also one of those rare cases in which the screen version may actually have surpassed the book itself.
     I also read and enjoyed these other Ambrose WWII books (yes, I know Ambrose plagiarized a portion of The Wild Blue, but I still loved it):
> Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany
> The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45 (my favorite Ambrose WWII book)
> The VICTORS : Eisenhower and His Boys: The Men of World War II
In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton – I am proud to say that I am Facebook friends with Harlan Twible, one of the survivors. He loves God and still looks healthy and active, well into his 90s. Warning: this book may give you nightmares. What these men went through is quite horrific and Stanton really puts you there with them.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand –  Every American should hear Louis Zamperini’s story. Hillenbrand tells it best. Hard to put this one down. Skip the theatrical version by Angelina Jolie and read this book instead.
In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnamby Robert S. McNamara with Brian VanDeMark -McNamara was the longest serving Secretary of State in U. S. history, having served under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
     Almost without exception modern historians and the general population look back at the Vietnam War as a colossal failure in political and military execution. Such dogmatic hindsight declarations fail to appreciate the difficulties in navigating through the post-WWII, Cold War era. Less than two decades after burying hundreds of thousands of American boys, the nation had little stomach for another major sacrifice of youth. Yet the encroachment of communism in Southeast Asia was real, and was especially frightening in a nuclear age. How valuable was containment of the communist threat? Was it worth the deployment and potential death of thousands of young Americans?
     McNamara gives his first-hand account of the difficulty of making the decisions that led to the escalation of American involvement in Vietnam. This book is a very engaging trip into the mind of one of the architects of the American entrance into the Vietnam conflict. It served as a gentle reminder to me that it is much easier to be an armchair quarterback on American foreign policy than to actually be a player in the decision-making process that impacts thousands of lives.
Seal Team Six by Howard Wasdin and Stephen Templin – Anyone interested in getting the insider’s look of what it’s like to become and be a Navy Seal (at least one who served in the ’80s and ’90s) will love it. Because I have a personal connection to the Battle of Mogadishu, I was especially captivated by that portion of Wasdin’s story. Heroism, bravado, and optimism throughout. Shatters some myths perpetuated by Hollywood. Salty language (as expected).
The Best of Times: The Boom and Bust Years of America before and after Everything Changed by Haynes Johnson – The vast majority of the previous books I have listed deal with American History during wartime. But this deals book focuses on America in the 1990s. It was interesting, but I felt Johnson inserted his own opinion too much. The New York Times praised it: “Informed, balanced and . . . gripping. A vivid and reliable reminder of what we have been through.” Library Journal commented: “Ultimately, the Nineties, according to Johnson, will be remembered as a time of squandered opportunities despite U.S. global preeminence and a booming economy. Johnson at time preaches and belabors issues, but his clear writing and thought-provoking investigations should send this book up the best sellers lists. Strongly recommended for all public libraries.”
The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn – You may be surprised to see this one in an American History list, but if you read it you’ll understand the connection between the beginning of our nation and the tragedy of 9/11. Prior to reading it, I looked up the reviews on this book and found quite a bit of ammunition against it, primarily because of a rejection of the assumption that underlies the book: that the U.S.A. is a special nation in God’s eyes… a modern Israel. Therefore, it is hermeneutically incorrect to impose Isaiah 9.10 onto America in a double prophecy manner. Makes sense. But then I read the book.  Like many others, I was stunned by the facts surrounding 9/11 and the response of our country since then, including the facts and timing of the stock market crash in September of 2008. What I need to find is a point by point refutal of these amazing facts. I mean it’s one thing to deny the assumption underlying the book, but it’s another thing to explain away all the amazing “coincidences” that line up so…eerily.
Younger reader?
Try these titles:
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Abundant Life (Jn.10.10) … Abiding Life (Jn.15.5)