Monday, August 29, 2016

Hastening NPL2025 a review

              For many Christians the need to share the gospel seems to be something that is best left to others; The pastor, the professional missionary, and people who have the money to spend their vacations in some far off place. These same people would probably agree with the sentiment of Mathew 24: 14--the whole world has to be reached, and then the end will come. Of course that means that a lot of people need to "A thriller based on present and future events". The Book is called Hastening: Book One of NO PLACE LEFT a Saga of Destiny Fulfilled. (2414 Ventures, 2016).
                The basic premise of the book is that Jesus won't return until the work of sharing the gospel throughout the world is completed, and the missionaries currently serving can't reach all of them. Three men, church planters, come up with the idea of mobilizing Christians to reach the over 3000 unreached people groups throughout the world by the year 2025 - a very ambitious ten year plan.
                Throughout the book references are made to Perspectives class, an actual class, a 15 week study in missions. Prominent missiologists are mentioned by name, and the acronyms used are familiar to those who study trends in church planting and missions.
                But this is fiction, a thriller based on present and future events, and so there has to be a protagonist. In this case, a group of men simply known as The Ten, a group that has power and resources that most of us couldn't even dream about.  The two story lines intertwine very nicely, and the adversary adds an element of excitement and intrigue for those who may not be overly interested in dry facts about current trends in the field of missions.
                I enjoyed this book, and actually read it in one sitting. I'm looking forward to the sequel, which will hopefully be released soon.
                Although I was fortunate enough to get a review copy of the book in exchange for agreeing to review the book, I would willingly pay the asking price since it is such an enjoyable read.  Please, though, although it is easy to get caught up in some of the facts about the mission field, this book is representative of a world-wide picture of serving.

               For more information on the current challenges facing missionaries today, and about reaching Unreached People Groups click here

Friday, August 26, 2016

Dare to dream those Lion-sized dreams

What if you started running toward the Lion instead of away from it? Yeah, no one in his right mind would do that, or would he? Mark Batterson, in his latest book Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn't Scare you, It's too Small (Multnomah, 2016) tells the story of someone who did just that. Actually he continues the story that he started 10 years ago. The story of Benaiah, son of Jehoiada was told in the book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.
                In that book Batterson told a tale of courage that most of us would call something else. Benaiah followed a lion and when the lion fell into a pit, Benaiah jumped in with him to get the kill. This is not a story like Daniel and the Lion's Den, there was no messenger from God who kept the Lion's mouth shut until someone rescued Benaiah, nope, Benaiah went into the pit and did what he had to do.
                This sequel if you will tells other stories, stores of other heroes from the Bible, and from the author's own life. Batterson tells stories of people who had big dreams and because they believed that those dreams were from God, they were willing to follow them, to chase the lion, if you will.
                I have enjoyed reading other books by Mark Batterson--he has written several, and Chase the Lion is no exception. Looking over the pages of notes I took while reading this book, I find lessons in theology, in church life, in leadership, as well as lessons learned, and a great deal of encouragement for those who are face with dreams that are much bigger than they know what to do with.  In that case, Batterson encourages the reader, the dreamer to count the cost, pay the price and repeat as necessary. 
This book is scheduled for release on September 6th.  If your dreams scare you, you need to get this book. If you're an ordinary dreamer, this book might just help you to dream bigger and scarier dreams, and if you're afraid to dream, reading this book might just bring out in you the courage that you never knew you had.

I received and Advance Review Copy of this book in exchange for writing this review. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions expressed are my own. 

Reach for the Sky

                Going back to school is always a challenge, but I did it. And then I had to drop a class because it was too overwhelming with other stuff going on in my life and ministry. And then I took that class, the last one actually,  before I was supposed to start on the final project, a two semester adventure. And so I enrolled, got sick, and had to put the project on hold again. So my goal is completing the project and getting that degree.  A lot of people dream of going back to school, and a lot of them do it, it's just that most of them do so while they're a little younger than I am.  I'd like to finish this doctoral program before I'm eligible for Social Security (and there's only a year before I turn 66.)
                Most of the challenges involve health, being sick, Dr's visit's, tests (and more tests) but along the way there are the challenges of being a pastor: other people's crises and emergencies don't always check with my schedule before coming crashing down in to their (and my) life.
                Since I've had to take a break from school for the past two terms, it will be difficult to get started up again. After so long, some of the passion and enthusiasm has dissipated, but I know that  if I'm willing to consistently spend the required time and effort, that I can make it happen.
                Along the way, as I struggle to achieve my dreams, I hope to serve as an inspiration and encouragement to others. It's easy to say something along the lines of "if I can do it, so can you", but I hope to be able to actively encourage others by my example, rather than a bunch of platitudes and words that everyone has heard before.
                Sometimes we have no idea how our actions will encourage and influence others. One of the movies that comes out this week (AUG 26) is GREATER. It's based on the life of Brandon Burlsworth, (I reviewed the movie HERE).  Brandon's life reminds us that any dream is possible. Brandon, an unlikely candidate to make any football team, had a lifelong dream to play for a certain football team. The movie is how he overcame some pretty long odds and achieved his dream. It didn't happen in a vacuum, along the way he had some people in his corner, people who were there for him, people who mentored and encouraged him, people who kept him from giving up and pushed him to take the next step toward reaching that dream.
                What I really liked about this film is that along the way, without being pushy, but rather just by being himself, he was able to share his faith, to  inspire others, to encourage others, and to influence the culture of a college football team, and perhaps even the culture of the university, and y extension the college town in which Brandon's dream became reality.
                You can watch the TRAILER HERE . 

                And by the way, once again thanks to my friends at GraceHill media, I can offer a giveaway. In the comments nominate a coach or teacher who inspired and encouraged you to go for your dream. I'll have a $25.00 Walmart gift card that one of you will be able to give to that person - a small token of you appreciation  for someone who was able to help you reach your dreams.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Greater: Brandon Burlsworth - walk-on to Razorback

First off, let me be clear that I'm not a football fan, I don't follow high school, college or pro football, so I almost said 'no' when the kind folks at Grace Hill Media offered me the opportunity to watch the movie "Greater"  ahead of its release. But in that invitation there was also enough of a hint that this was more than football involved in this movie. And that element of faith was what drew me in. This is not just a movie about football, there are valuable life lessons to be learned by following Brandon's example. You can watch the  trailer here.

Originally scheduled for release earlier this year, Greater, will be in theaters tomorrow, August 26th, just in time for Back-to-School, and lots of people trying out for the football team. Greater is the story of Brandon Burlsworth, who wanted, from a very  early age, to be an Arkansas Razorback.  Of course there was no way this was going to happen, based on his football skills and abilities, but someone saw something in this young man who refused to take 'no' for an answer, and when on to become, according to a press release,  'the greatest walk-on in the history of college football". 

Throughout the film one can't help but be impressed with Burlsworth's dedication. Even when suggestions on how he might improve are made with a hint of sarcasm, he takes them at face value and when he achieves the goal, heads back with that bubbling spirit, that says "OK, I did that, what's next?" Athletic success doesn't come easy for everyone;, but Burlsworth's hard work certainly paid off for him. Hard work just might be the answer when it seems like everything is going against you. Sometimes when you want to quit, that just means you need to ask what needs to be done, and then do that and more. 

His dad is pretty much out of the picture,  lots of brief appearances followed by broken promises, but he has the unwavering support of his mother, and the sometimes reluctant support  of a much older brother.  And a constant faith in God which gets him through heartbreak after heartbreak.  We have a generation of 'fatherless children' growing up, that's not God's plan, but sometimes that obstacle can be overcome. God, our heavenly Father doesn't disappoint like earthly fathers sometimes (often?) do. 

There are many scenes of Brandon on the practice field earlier than any of his team mates, and staying later, but each day starts with him reading the bible, and every weekend sees him making the drive home from college to accompany his mother to church.  

What makes Brandon's faith standout is not how he tried to prove that he had it, but the simple fact of how he lived it. As time went on the team members who made fun of him for his glasses, his faith, his weight,  or any other reason, saw how he responded and started following his example.  They started going with him to Bible studies, and their lives changed as a result  of his unwavering faith.

The press release (remember I don't follow football in any form) states:  "Eleven days after being drafted into the NFL and before he was able to sign the contract that would have changed the financial status of his family forever, Brandon died in a car accident on his way home. His death stunned the state: He did everything right, and yet he was snatched away before he and his family could enjoy the fruits of his labor."

But the legacy lives on through the charitable foundations founded in his name. Scholarships are given,  and  walk-ons are much more likely to play ball.

Bring the Kleenex!

By the way, this is a giveaway blog. I have a couple of Football jerseys (size "L"), compliments of GraceHill Media. Comment here or on the Face Book to be entered into a random drawing. (please, you need to be in my local area, so I can deliver or you can pick up)