Saturday, April 23, 2016

Minimalism For The Rest of Us

For many, the terms minimalism or minimalists may conjure images of vegan yoga fanatics living in sparse apartments, people traveling the world with all of their earthly belongings in a backpack, or the guy choosing to live in a van down by the river. Yet, there are different forms of minimalism, including the type promoted by Joshua Becker in his book The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own. I consider his form “rational minimalism for the rest of us.” Becker’s blog Becoming Minimalist has been instrumental in my minimalist/essentialist/simple living journey over the last year and I was excited to read his new book.

I can relate to Joshua. Like me, he is a husband, dad, homeowner, has a career, passionately involved in church ministry, and around the same age. These factors helped make the teachings from his book accessible and reasonable for me. Becker defines minimalism as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them” (Page 18) and clearly unpacks it in about 220 pages.  

After sharing the story of his launch into minimalism and the benefits of it, Joshua provides well-researched background about consumerism and advertising. This was both eye-opening and convicting. It is also important to note that the author stresses that minimalism and the minimalist lifestyle will look differently for each individual or family. There is no “cookie cutter” approach, but many clear strategies and techniques are presented throughout the book.

In his clear and enjoyable writing style, Josh provides strategies on getting started in reducing the number of possessions cluttering our lives, addressing difficult areas (e.g. mementos and papers), and sustaining a minimalist lifestyle over time. He primarily focuses on the physical minimalism, and doesn't devote much attention to calendar or electronic intentionality and minimalism. Finally, in the last three chapters, Becker details the abundant/purposeful life that minimalism can create. These chapters were outstanding and probably my favorites.

Having started exploring minimalism about a year ago and reading many different blogs, not many of the strategies presented in the book were truly new to me. However, they were great reminders and encouragements to persevere in the journey. I picked up several great tips in the chapters. The testimonies included throughout the book were also very helpful. Finally, while it is not a “Christian book”, it is written from a biblical worldview, something that I deeply respect and appreciate.

Whether you are on the minimalism journey already or just exploring the concepts, I whole-heartedly recommend Joshua Becker’s The More of Less.

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of The More of Less from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased book review.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

T4G Reflections

Last week I attended Together for the Gospel ( in Louisville, Kentucky. The three-day conference was packed with teaching sessions, breakouts, worship, and a huge bookstore/exhibit hall. It was intense. I returned home mentally and physically exhausted.

The speaker line up included many of my favorite authors and radio/podcast preachers, including  Al Mohler, John MacArthur, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, John Piper, and David Platt. As expected, each boldly proclaimed the Word of God, challenging the nearly 10,000 attendees in their ministries and lives. While I deeply respect these men and their ministries, I left with a deeper appreciation for my pastors and the “local pastor” as a whole.

Like most pastors, mine have not written best seller books, have widely read blogs, or have popular podcasts. Outside of my church, they are not well known. Nobody is rushing up for Sunday morning selfies with them. Yet, Gary, Dave, Ben, and Aaron faithfully proclaim the Word of God each week as they have been called by God to do. They dutifully study, prepare, and lead their respective ministries, while balancing other commitments and family responsibilities. I am grateful for them.

It is easy to get enamored with the “celebrity pastors”. Yet, let us thank God for our pastor(s), shepherding our churches each week. Be sure to express our appreciation to them also.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Top Books of 2015

love to read and have read about 45 books so far this year. I chose my annual top books of 2015 based on the following criteria:
Highlights and notes in the book
Loaned or recommended to others
Conversations about it
Life applications

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney

This thought provoking and actionable book focuses on the practices found in Scripture to promote spiritual growth (Whitney, 4). Whitney biblically examines ten disciplines: Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence, solitude, journaling, and learning. I have read the book twice and will reread many times in coming years. Read Tim Challies’ review ( for additional book information. 

Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore

Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, thoroughly and thoughtfully analyzes our 21st American culture and details how Christians are to respond to it. The church is not to be walled up from the broader culture, but engage in and speak to it with a distinctive message of the Gospel and biblical truth.

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle

As a media scholar from MIT, Turkle investigates the impact of constant connectedness and our digital devices, resulting in a flight from conversation and undermining our relationships, creativity, and productivity- and arguing that  reclaiming face-to-face conversation can help us regain lost ground. While not written from a biblical worldview, the direct personal and ministry/discipleship applications are profound.

Becoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life? by Michael Wittmer
This book is a refreshing counter argument to popular books such as Radical, Don’t Waste Your Life, and Crazy Love. Tim Challies summarizes the book well, “In this book Michael Wittmer answers common questions like these: Can you serve Jesus and still enjoy your life? Is it possible for you to be fully committed to the Lord and still find time to enjoy life’s pleasures? Or, as some seem to feel, do we need to live lives of utter frugality, sending all our money to the mission field? Are we responsible to share the gospel with absolutely every person we encounter? Should we really feel that constant low-grade guilt that accuses us that we are not doing enough for the Lord? In short, how do we resolve the tension between the pleasures of earth and the purpose of heaven? His answers are as compelling as any I’ve read. This book is a life-changer” ( 

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I’m an Apple fan and enjoyed this fascinating authorized biography on the company’s founder, president, and chief innovator for many years.  Jobs was a creative genius but a miserable person. He built an Apple kingdom in life but died apart from Jesus Christ in his sin.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Learning to See

Before reading further, watch this video.

Life is busy. Distractions abound. How often do we close ourself off to the world around us by grabbing our smart phone to check Facebook or Twitter while waiting for an elevator, sitting in a restaraunt, standing in a check out line, etc? Yet, for the Christian- what opportunities are we missing?

The discouraged. The tired. The anxious. The lonely. The spiritually lost person who needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. All of these people cross our paths daily. They may be a coworker, a neighbor, a friend, a spouse, a child, or a stranger. It is easy to miss something (or someone) that we are not looking for. Rooted in prayer, may we all start looking for the opportunities and needs around us. 

To manage our devices better, I propose three specific action items:

1. Keep our devices out of site and not on the table when sharing a meal with others. Show them that they are more important that the a text or notification that you may receive.
2. Turn off all non-essential notifications on our devices, except for calls and texts. Use the do not disturb function when meeting with others. Others can wait. Own our devices, don't let them own us.
3. Resist the urge to check our devices at the first sign of boredom- elevators, restaurants, check out lines etc. In addition to making us more aware and available to those around us, it provides time for us to think and ponder more. 

May we all see the "moonwalking bears" in our daily lives, for God's glory and the furthering of His gospel. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

25 Books

I love books and I love to read. In addition to filled bookshelves, I have bins of books in the closet and basement, and an extensive collection on my Kindle. Yeah, I may be an addict.

Recently I went through the hypothetical exercise of identifying the books I would keep if 25 was my limit. I allowed myself one Bible in addition to the 25 books and chose my ESV single column Legacy Bible.

The 25 titles included both physical and electronic copies. I have not yet read a couple of the books picked; but they are classic works in Christendom and theological thought which I plan on reading. 

Here are my 25 books, in no particular order:

1. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. My go to theology book, fairly representing different views and very readable.
2. Teaching to Change Lives by Howard Hendricks. Probably the most dog-eared and marked up book in my library. A practical book that has sharpened me as a teacher. I've read this book at least 10 times. 
3. Living By the Book by Howard Hendricks. Practical skills to read, interpret, and apply the Bible. 
4. ESV Study Bible. A beautiful study Bible with solid notes, rich illustrations, and helpful supplementary articles.
5. The Conviction to Lead by Al Mohler. 25 key leadership skills and traits by a dynamic Christian leader.
6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (in one volume). The classic story, rich in allegory, to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.
7. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Probably the richest literary story I've read. Masterfully written. 
8. The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. Another highly dog-eared and marked up book on practical holiness in the Christian's life. 
9. Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley. A great reference on, well, church history.
10. Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. I've read this one (in modern English) almost annually for the last few years. A rich allegory of the Christian life.
11. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. I've read through this book twice in the last year. Very practical with key insights and strategies.
12 and 13. The Bible Knowledge Commentary (2 volumes). Readable and well written by the faculty of the Dallas Theological Seminary. 
14. The Moody Bible Commentary. Written by the faculty of the Moody Bible Institute.
15 The MacArthur's Bible Commentary. Another one volume reference by pastor and Bible teacher Dr. John MacArthur.
16 and 17. Institutes of Christian Religion (2 volumes) by John Calvin. I haven't read this classic work yet, but plan to in the near future.
18. Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxes. A biography on William Wilberforce, one of my heroes of the faith.
19 Thy Word is Still Truth. A collection of writings about the Bible from various writers and pastors from the reformation forward. 
20 Onward by Russell Moore. A new title on our role in society today.
21. What's Best Next by Matt Perman. A challenging book that helped me identify my life purpose, goals, and how to structure my priorities around them.
22. The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung. DeYoung's books are deeply theological but very understandable. I've read this book at least four times.
23. Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon. Although I have not read it all the way through, no collection is complete without content from the "Prince of Preachers".
24. New Bible Dictionary (IVP). A good reference tool.
25. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. A staple apologetics title for any Christian's library. 

The list may look different in the future, but these would be the 25 books I'd keep if I had to make the decision to keep only 25 books today.

What books would make up your 25?  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

14,610 Sunrises

I've wasted too much time living for myself over the last 40 years (14,610 sunrises). Time wasted in seeking my own pleasure or striving to make my own name great. As I prepare to celebrate my 40th birthday in less than two weeks and look ahead to the days and years ahead, I hope that the following resolutions are true of my life. Resolved, 

may I live faithfully for the Lord in the God-given passion and life goal to build up the church's next generation through teaching the Word, leading in the church, and discipling/mentoring men;

may I be a more dedicated student of Scripture and pray-er;

may I faithfully live as a devoted husband and dad, leading my family as Scripture commands;

may I be a better friend;

may I diligently work in the vocation that I have been called;

may I boast in the Lord and not myself;

may I hold loosely to things of this world and set my heart on eternity, where moth and rust do not destroy;

may I steward time wisely, knowing that life is a vapor. 

I have so much to be thankful for in the last 40 years. I stand amazed that the Lord has used me as He has and for His abundant blessings in my life.  

Teach me O Lord to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

"Let us be banded together as one man; let us contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; let us pray with fervor, let us live in holiness, let us preach constantly, and preach with fire, and let us so live, that we may impress our age, and leave our footprints on the sands of time."
 - Charles Spurgeon

Monday, June 1, 2015


In my earlier post I stated that it is my goal to live a more intentional and balanced life by focusing on certain key actions. In this post I want to expand on my first focus area: the practice of various spiritual disciplines, including Bible study, prayer, and journaling. As a follower of Jesus Christ, this is the foundational first steps to a balanced and purposeful life.

Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life has been thought provoking and actionable. Spiritual Disciplines are the practices found in the Bible that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Whitney, 4). He argues that “the only road to Christian maturity and godliness (a biblical term synonymous with Christ-likeness and holiness) passes through the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines” and uses 1 Timothy 4:7 as the answer to the key question of how we are to become more like Jesus Christ, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness (NASB)” (Whitney, 4). Whitney biblically examines ten different disciplines in the Christian life: Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning. While I intend to incorproate all of these practices in my life, three disciplines will be my initial intentional focuses for growth: Bible intake, prayer, and journaling. While I am currently conistently practicing each of these areas, there is room for growth.

Bible Intake. No spiritual discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. To know God is to know His Word. Beyond reading, studying, or hearing God’s Word, effort must be placed on doing it.In this area, I purpose to:
  • Ensure that I maintain at least 45–60 minutes each morning for undistracted time in the Word and prayer. This means that I need to leave the computer, iPad, and iPhone out of reach during this time, one of my biggest challenges currently.
  • Learn to better observe, interpret, and apply Scripture. Howard Hendricks’ book and study Living by the Book is one that I need to revisit.
  • Learn to slow down and meditate on the Word, rather than speeding through a reading plan to see how many boxes I can check off.
  • Look for more time in my day for Bible intake. This may include listening to the Word on my drive to work, listening while mowing the lawn, reading on lunch, or just by turning off the electronic devices or to spend time in my Bible.
Prayer. Scripture is clear, we are expected to pray and God works through our prayers. As Whitney points out, “God speaks to us in His Word, and we speak to Him in response to what He has said” (Whitney, 87). Bible intake and prayer go together. Specifically, I intend to:
  • Learn to pray in conjunction with my Bible study and meditation.
  • Just pray, asking the Holy Spirit for the concentration to do it. Prayer is hard work. Prayer is war.
Journaling. Whitney defines and describes a journal as “a place in which a person records information important to him or her personally for preservation or consideration. As a Christian, your journal is a place to document the works and ways of God in your life. Your journal also can include an account of daily events, a record of personal relationships, a notebook of insights into Scripture, and/or a list of prayer requests” (Whitney, 249). Journaling is a discipline that I have maintained for over 15 years. It has been greatly beneficial in seeing how God has worked in my life, answered prayers, and to demonstrate growth over the course of months and years. It has also pointed out areas of concern, weakness, and sin. Moving forward, I intend to maintain my current practice and look for ways that I may expand my journaling. While journaling is not a “must do” for the Christian, it can be highly beneficial and one that I recommend.

The practice of these spiritual disciplines are foundational in helping me walk more in sync with the Lord and learning to discern His focus and priorities for my life, so that I will not be overwhelmed and scattered in my serving Him. In my next post I’ll highlight strategies for more purposeful and valuable reading.