Saturday, May 23, 2015

Book Review: The Call

Book title: The Call
Author: Os Guinness
Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 1998
Number of pages: 255

Listening to the Caller

Os Guinness
-- photo courtesy of
Justus Martin Photography
“There can be no calling without a Caller.” writes Os Guinness. Are you connected to the Caller? I’m not asking if you are a Christian or if you have a “personal relationship” with Jesus. Guinness believes you can check both of these boxes and not be fully engaged with the Caller.

Many make the mistake thinking that the only way to get God to really love us is to go into "ministry" (i.e. become a pastor or a missionary). You’re doing work or going down a path that someone–maybe everyone–else has told you must go down. For many church, the prescribed path of dedicated Christian maturity is:
●    make a profession of faith
●    learn the basic tenets of the faith
●    volunteer in the church
●    go to Bible college
●    become a leader in the church
●    pursue full-time vocational ministry
●    enter pastoral ministry

This is the prescribed progression of a life of sacrifice and faith. But this path was never prescribed by God. If this is the path you’re going down and you’re not connected to the Caller, you’ll live a life of frustration, futility, and emptiness.

Many folks think that if they simply live a moral life, they’ll walk in the call God has for their lives. Living a moral life is not where one finds purpose.

“The call of our Creator is “the ultimate why” for living, the highest source of purpose in human existence,” writes Guinness. “Nothing short of God’s call can ground and fulfill the truest human desire for purpose.”

Here’s how call is defined:

Primary call
A general call that God makes to all mankind. God wants to have an intimate relationship with each person. He provides a way for humans to know him through Jesus Christ.

Secondary call
How the primary call is manifested in a man's life is his secondary call. We tend to compartmentalize our work from our life with God. We divide into “secular” and “spiritual.” But this is not how God designed us. The secondary call is where the passion is, where a man flourishes in his gifts as he serves others and God. The primary call is anemic without the secondary call. But so many people are stuck living colorless lives as believers.

The secondary call is meant to be an act of worship to the Lord. My daily work is how I connect with God and how I serve him.

Are you trying to figure it out? Are you wondering what God is going to in your life next. Don’t over-think and definitely don’t over-spiritualize it. Be cautious about who you get advice from especially if, in your church culture, people continuously over-spiritualize things with the subtle agenda of making others feel like they’re not measuring up (we church types are notorious for this). That’s the opposite of how God works in your life. You know this, but not very many people in your world will say this to you. This book does. It is one of the most affirming books I’ve ever read and the book I’ve recommended most this past year. Whether you’re in the Valley of Decision or not, get this book. Read it. Mark it up. Refer to it often.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

transcend instinct

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. (‭Colossians‬ ‭3‬:‭1-4‬ NLT)

This is a mind-blowing paragraph. It is really difficult to think about your life in these terms. It is difficult to go through your day in a technology, noisy, sex-soaked world and see your world through the lens of the above verses.

That's why Paul needed to write this to you. He knew that looking at life this way was not going to come natural to you. You, as a believer, need to transcend instinct.

Here's Paul's action plan:

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. (‭Colossians‬ ‭3‬:‭5-8‬ NLT)

Monday, May 18, 2015

How God Stirs Up Goodness

“This man had a very beautiful and lovely young cousin, Hadassah, who was also called Esther. When her father and mother died, Mordecai adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter.”—Esther 2:7 (NLT)

Experts say that in a crisis situation, instinct kicks in. Your body releases adrenaline into your circulatory system causing both your heart rate and breathing to increase sharply. The body and brain prepare for fight or flight; stand fast or flee. Either way, change is coming.

The Bible doesn’t tell us how it happened, but when Esther’s parents died, her cousin, Mordecai, had his life interrupted. He was forced into a position to make a choice. This was not his idea. He did not plan on making this choice. Nevertheless, here he was in the middle of a crisis and he was faced with the decision to make or break young Esther’s future.

Mordecai stood fast and stepped in to intervene into the life of newly orphaned Esther. He changed her destiny.

Stories about orphans always stir emotions. A storyline that features an orphan surviving delivers a satisfying emotional payload if you see it on the screen or read it in a book, but you've always thought, Not me. I could never adopt. I’m simply not good enough. There’s a soundtrack of accusatory voices stuck on repeat in your head telling you that you don’t have that kind of goodness in you.

Standing and fighting through a crisis—especially someone else’s crisis—brings goodness out of you that you didn't even know existed. You think you have a plan for your life, but you really have no idea what God will bring your way because you are His representative in His world.

You know you want to do something good with the little bit of goodness you have in you. You bear the image of God. And, if you’ve opened your heart to Jesus, He’s given you a new heart. Offer your goodness to God and see what He wants to do with it. You don’t really need to be special or talented to be used by God. You just have to be somebody that says yes.

This Daily Devotional was originally published at

Manuscript sent! [UPDATED]

This post has been updated...

I talked about it a lot over the past couple of years but I did more talking than actual writing. But today, after pushing hard over the past six weeks, I submitted a manuscript to publisher advertising a contest to its cadre of bloggers.

I've been blogging, on and off, for Thomas Nelson's BookLook Bloggers initiative for a few years. This started in 2008 when Michael Hyatt was still CEO of the publishing house. It was a marketing strategy to increase online visibility for their books in a time when shelf space in brick-and-mortar book sellers began to trend downward.

At the end of October, I received an email about a contest a subsidiary publisher of Thomas Nelson was having and was actually halfway through. The contest began in September and ends the last day of November. I jumped in pretty late. But I had already started and stopped working on a book for the past few years so I had a bunch of stuff written, it just didn't make sense as a book yet. So since the last few weeks since the end of October, I've been working at night after Allie is in bed and early mornings before anyone is up to hammer out a manuscript to enter into the contest to get published. Winners will be announced in January. Fingers crossed.

Here's an update on my manuscript. First, I didn't win the contest, or even place. Here's a post about who did win.

The bottom line is writing a book is hard work. Really hard work. What I've discovered through this process is that this project is only about halfway there. Here's how I learned that: I've had trusted friends who know how to write take a hard look at my book and tell me what they really think.

Have you ever watched American Idol auditions? It's the most brutal part of the season. It's painful to watch. When I watch people get up and make absolute fools of themselves, I think these people have NO friends! It's got to be true. These early auditions are SO bad, it's the only conclusion you can come to.

When it comes to my writing, I don't want the same thing to be said about me. I want to be edited. I want people to tell me the truth. I want it to take a long time if the project isn't finished. I was disappointed at first, but when trusted friends got their hands on what I wrote and began to tell me things like, "I was confused about the timeline here," or "you need to tell more of this person's story," or "I loved it when you did this," I soaked it all in like a sponge and took notes.

The next thing I have to do is get serious and get back to work. The story definitely isn't ready to be written yet. There's more that still needs to happen. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Blue Jays, Karma, and Reincarnation

When I was a kid my father, a career Marine and Viet Nam veteran, taught me to hunt. He taught me stealth (a lesson that took years to stick). But no matter how quiet you were, blue jays always seemed to give away your position and warn the rest of the critters in the woods of your presence. They are nature's self-appointed sentinels.

Now it's confession time. As a teenager, I went after blue jays with rocks, wrist rockets, BB guns, .22s, and shotguns. I have very little remorse for these sins. I've spilled the blood of many noisy forest animals. I've cooked them. I've eaten them.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've had a run in with karma. Possibly reincarnation. In the video below you will witness a blue jay with other-worldly courage taunt me and chase me out of his temporarily assigned territory that just so happens to overlap my daily three mile running course.

You reap what you sow.

Friday, May 08, 2015

3 things God has given you

“A time is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will punish all those who are circumcised in body but not in spirit— the Egyptians, Edomites, Ammonites, Moabites, the people who live in the desert in remote places, and yes, even the people of Judah. And like all these pagan nations, the people of Israel also have uncircumcised hearts.” (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭9‬:‭25-26‬ NLT)

I wonder if being picked for a criminal lineup as a stand in is a compliment. Is that the kind of impression you want to give somebody? How does that conversation go? "You'd be excellent for our criminal lineup! You're just the kind of guy we're looking for. You'd fit right in. None of the other criminals would suspect you didn't belong."

It seems like an insult. It should at least be a wake up call. You need to change your associations and/or your behavior because there isn't much of a future in being the guy a who's picked to stand in a criminal lineup.

As far as Jeremiah is concerned above, the nation of Judah is part of a criminal lineup because they are just as guilty as the criminal nations. But Judah is either oblivious or in denial. God has sent Jeremiah to wake them up.

I don't envy the job God has given Jeremiah to do. He's young, has no credibility, and is relatively unknown. He has no currency and no platform. What he does have is integrity, a call, and a message. God is the source of all three. Confidence in this keeps Jeremiah on task because his audience is hostile. Even so, as a guy who makes a living in communications, I'm here to tell you, Jeremiah does not have good job security. For success to happen, ideas must resonate with the audience. The reason 90% of start ups fail is the messenger doesn't connect with his audience.

Remember what Jeremiah had, though:
  • integrity from God
  • a call from God
  • a message from God
Jeremiah's audience is God. Jeremiah knew this so, no matter how difficult it was, this is how he behaved. What Jeremiah didn't know, however, was that future prophets were also his audience. Daniel for example, read Jeremiah's writings (see Daniel 9:2) to figure out how Daniel himself could participate in God's plan of redemption for Israel.

Jeremiah's message is for you too. The example he sets is for you, also. Your audience is God. What are you doing with the integrity, call, and message He's given you?

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Analysis of a Sweaty Selfie

I’d like to say that this is the last selfie I’ll ever take but that’s probably a lie. I never intended to take a mirror shot selfie, but as I stood in front of the mirror after my ritual three mile run earlier this week, I noticed something I never took the time to analyze before. My shirt, of course, was sweaty. But the sweat was not evenly distributed.

There were dry spots and wet spots. High spots and low spots. One thing we all learned in elementary school science is that water seeks the lowest level. Water runs down mountainsides into rivers in low lying valleys below. My sweaty shirt is the perfect scientific model proving this theory.

Refer to the above picture for visual reference:
  1. Dry pectoral. Clearly not the most defined pectoral ever photographed, but definitely a high spot on my anatomy. 
  2. Dry bicep. These are worked regularly. Naturally blessed with well-developed biceps, fast results are realized with a little work. 
  3. The paunch: also dry. This area has grown in direct proportion to age and metabolism rate. This is the largest dry spot on the upper body. 

Ideally, the highest and driest spot on the t-shirt would be area one, and the shirt would hang straight down from the pectoral area over a flat abdomen area. But this isn’t the ideal situation. This is real life.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Maintain Your Heart

“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.” — Psalm 95:8 (NKJV)

I fell hard on the ground as I snagged my jeans climbing over the fence. A splinter ripped them and gashed my leg at the same time. The gate didn’t work. The hinges and lock appeared ancient because they were fused shut by rust. The gate’s moving parts were ignored and, ultimately, transformed into hard clumps of rusted metal. Just like this inoperable gate, if we’re not careful, our hearts can become the same way.

The verse above references the day God told Moses to speak to a rock intended to be a source of water for the angry, thirsty mob the children of Israel had become. “Speak to the rock, Moses,” Moses heard the voice of the Lord say, “and I will cause water to flow from it” (Numbers 20:7). But Moses was so angry with the children of Israel that, instead, he thrashed the rock with his staff. This misrepresented the way God wanted to be viewed by the masses. Moses acted like no one could see him. He didn’t care how people would see God through him. Because Moses had become hard hearted toward his mission, there were consequences for him: he was not  permitted to enter the Promised Land.

God is doing something in your heart right now. Not only are you feeling the touch of the Holy Spirit in that area of your life, but your wheels are turning. Maybe you’re thinking about people you don’t want to think about. Could it be that God wants you to have conversations with them? Even now, as you are reading this at work, you’re planning how to take the long way to the break room to avoid any eye contact or interference with that person’s workstation.

As a Christian, you shouldn’t act like “I don’t see you and you don’t see me.” There’s a certain way God wants to be represented by you to those in your world. You’re the gate God wants to walk through to meet that person you have issues with. You need to be the gate that swings freely on its hinges rather than stuck in the shut position because your hinges have corroded closed.

Be operational, accessible, and kind, so that the people in your life can access Jesus through you. In your world, you are the way in!

This Daily Devotional was originally published at

Why I like Stitcher better

I discovered Stitcher a few months ago when listening to one of my favorite podcasts on iTunes. I've been listening to podcasts for more than a decade- ever since companies and organizations learned how smart it was for their own bottom lines to give away free content. The iTunes podcast benchmarked how podcast would look and deliver content. The way they've tagged and categorized content had made finding content easy both for consumer and creator alike. It is indisputable that iTunes dominates this space.

Stitcher, on the other hand, has made consuming podcasts elegant and intuitive. Pay attention, iTunes. 

Sharing podcasts on Stitcher is a fantastic experience. The only downside is that not enough people are on Stitcher yet, so, when you share content, your friends probably don't have the Stitcher app on their phones. I, personally, want to see that change. In fact, where I work, we've included our church sermons content to Stitcher as another way for people to discover our content and share it with friends. 

What I love about Stitcher is how they do recommendations. Stitcher recommends new podcasts according to your interests in the app itself as you finish listening to a show. Stitcher also sends subscribers who've opted in, a visually appealing email with more content recommendations. 

Stitcher cracked the code with their visual user experience.  is where Stitcher has cracked the code on content delivery. Above is a screenshot of Stitcher's email to me this morning. It makes me feel like they care about what I care about. Well done, Stitcher. Well done.