All posts by Brett

Christian, Husband, Father, Pastor

Want to Become a Reader? Here’s How…

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 5.07.20 PM

It’s one thing to be literate… to have the skill to read. It’s another thing to be identified as a reader of books. Regrettably, most Americans don’t read much, if at all. According to the Pew Research Center:

Among all American adults, the average (mean) number of books read or listened to in the past year is 12 and the median (midpoint) number is 5–in other words, half of adults read more than 5 books and half read fewer. Neither number is significantly different from previous years.

Half of American adults read 5 books or less per year? That’s stunning. With average reading skills (250 words per minute), it would take just 6 hours to read one 200 page book. The average book in America is 232 pages, so let’s round that up, being conservative, to 6 1/2 hours per book. That would mean it would take about 32.5 hours to read five books. Hang with me here… just a little more math… there are about 5,782 awake hours per year (assuming 8 hours of sleep per day). Putting it all together, this means that the average American adult spends about 0.0056% of their waking hours reading books.

Let’s compare that to watching television. According to multiple sources, the average American adult watches over 5 hours of television per day. This roughly 32% of waking hours. And this isn’t even counting watching movies at the cinema or on DVD. Yikes!

I can understand why this the lifestyle of the average American adult is more about television than reading. We all want to “chill our” after a long day at work, and the idea of working your way through a book is not exactly the best way to chill out after working all day.

Neither do I want to suggest that watching TV is morally wrong or sinful. Depending on what you are watching, TV can land anywhere on the moral spectrum. However, one has to wonder if our lives would be more greatly enriched if we were to reduce that television input at least a little and pick up a book more often, especially if it is a good book. And please note, I’m not too naive to fail to recognize that the same that is said about television offerings representing all points on the moral spectrum also applies to books. There are fantastic, enriching, life-changing books and there are raunchy, trashy, morally bankrupt books and all manner in between. I want to move forward with this discussion under the assumption that we are talking about reading quality books.

Are You a Reader?

What about you? Can you identify yourself as a reader? I’m not asking if you are literate. I’m asking if you read books. Here are some probing questions: When was the last time you completed an entire book? Do you have a book, or books, that you are currently reading? How many books did you read last year?

If your answers to those questions leaves you disappointed with yourself as a reader, and if you want to do something about it, please keep reading.

I’m not going to lay out a number of books that you must read to be considered a legitimate “reader.” You need to decide that for yourself. We are all at different stations in life and being a “reader” for one person might mean reading six books a year (one per month) while being a “reader” for another person might mean reading many more.

If you happen to be someone who is disappointed with the amount you read, I want to extend some encouragement to you, and hopefully offer you a helping hand in becoming the reader you desire to be.

Continue reading Want to Become a Reader? Here’s How…

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

WORSHIP THROUGH THE WORD

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

WORSHIP THROUGH PRAYER

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)

WORSHIP THROUGH TESTIMONY

Ideas:

> 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)

WORSHIP THROUGH SONG

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”

At Harvest Bible Chapel, we seek to walk a very careful line between avoiding the excesses of much of the charismatic movement and yet not quenching the Spirit of God’s work in our midst. For many years, as both a pastor and a Christian, I avoided any kind of “prophetic” type activity. I have very little experience in this area and am quite cautious about this kind of thing. However, although we are not a “charismatic” church, we also believe that God is big and can certainly speak today if He desires (it will ALWAYS be consistent with Scripture).

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 this kind of work 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.

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-2-07-16-pm

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
Others
McSpadden Book Binding- http://www.mcspaddenbookbindery.com/