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Some Books from 2020

I don’t want to label this a top ten list and make it sound like I read enough books to have a realistic top ten list. So these are just some books that I read in the past twelve months that I enjoyed, I learned from, or I was challenged by.

  1. Letters to the Church by Francis Chan –I marked this book’s pages more than any other I’ve read this year or in a long time. His critique of what has become “church” for most of us was a jolt to my convictions that I needed to read.
  2. The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax –I’m a parent, so I try to learn about being a better parent. This book was challenging. It confronts the friend approach that many parents take in our modern-day and age. It spoke to that truth I know in my heart: that my job is not to entitle my children but to train them to be adults that can survive and be successful in this world.
  3. Born Again This Way by Rachel Gilson –Rachel Gilson talks about Rachel’s journey of being a same-sex attracted woman while living by the Bible’s principles. This is one of the clearest treatises on this topic I have ever read. But this book went beyond addressing just one group’s “sin” I was confronted in my sin also and encouraged by the hope we can all have through the power of Jesus!
  4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates –This book is one that many could argue with as they read. I chose to set cultural and racial defensiveness aside and learn from another’s perspective. I’m glad I did. (*language).
  5. Creating Community by Andy Stanley –During COVID, I became convicted that, as Ellen White said, small groups are a method that “cannot fail.” So I did some small group reading. Of the small group “method” books out there, this is one of the better ones I’ve read.
  6. Re:Vision by Aubrey Malphurs and Gordon Penfold –I’m about two years in and two chapters into my doctoral degree, and this was one of the books assigned to me in my core curriculum. I loved it. But you should know almost everyone else in my class hated it. I can’t tell you why; it just rubbed them wrong. It smacked me and encouraged me to take more ownership of where and how I’m leading the people God has called me to lead. By the way, my doctorate is examining leadership in relationship to church revitalization, so this book is about church revitalization.
  7. Running the Dream by Matt Fitzgerald –I just love reading about distance running! (*language)

And here are a few titles I’ve started in 2020 and will hopefully finish in 2021:

  • James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney
  • Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright
  • Myth of Christian Nation by Gregory Boyd
  • Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin
  • The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon
  • Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands

What have you read in 2020 and what are you reading in 2021?

Practice Verbal Distancing from These Terms

As our nation and our world continue to battle Covid-19, maybe battle is the wrong word, as we learn to survive in the world of Covid-19, there are terms that are becoming part of our everyday vocabulary.

Two of those terms are “social distancing” and “new normal.”

I’d like to propose that we practice verbal distancing from both of those terms.

I know that another name for social distancing is physical distancing and that is the term I am trying to use more and more. The reason for this is that why we need to maintain physical space to keep the virus from spreading, we should still seek every opportunity to engage socially.

In the very first book of the Bible and the second chapter we are told very directly,

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone. . .

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 2:18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Genesis 2:18 is most often referenced regarding the topic of marriage; but we can’t limit it to marriage otherwise when Paul instructs people later in the Bible to stay unmarried if they are able in 1st Corinthians 7 he would be counseling against God’s direct feeling. So while Genesis 2:18 fully encompasses the union of a man and a woman in marriage it also encompasses the need for humans to have social interaction with other humans.

For the vast majority of history, one would need to have physical proximity to another person to also have social proximity to them. This would have been the reality in 1918 during the great influenza pandemic. I have heard a lot of comparisons to that horrific pandemic in our world’s history. I think there are many dissimilarities with that pandemic and what we are facing now, but one of the key differences is that this is not 1918, it is 2020 and 2020 has a multitude of ways to socially engage while keeping physical distance.

So I want to encourage all of us to stop speaking of social distancing and instead practice physical distancing while drawing near socially.

I am back on Facebook in a limit format, for this very purpose, so I can draw nearer to our church members and others that may wish to engage in the midst of this crisis.

I am making more phone calls. I spoke to my dad for forty-five minutes on the phone two Sabbath’s ago. I have not talked on the phone to my dad for forty-five minutes at one time in the five years since I moved to Maryland.

We can text. We can FaceTime. We can email. We can send a card through snail mail. Rain, shine, or Covid-19 the United States Post Office still runs strong. This last Sabbath while our family was out on a walk some church members drove by, they pulled their car over and while we stayed on the sidewalk and they in their car we had a 30+ minute Sabbath afternoon conversation. Practice physical distancing but draw near socially to someone every day!

The second phrase the “new normal” I didn’t realize how much I dislike it until today. I was looking at the news and they had a clip of Hoda Kotb breaking down in tears on NBC’s Today Show. She had just interviewed Drew Brees, the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints who was sharing what he was doing to help Louisiana to fight Covid-19. When the interview ended and Hoda tried to speak she couldn’t . . . her voice broke and tears started to come. Savannah Guthrie her co-host who is in another studio, because they are practicing physical distancing (do you like how I didn’t say social distancing? :)) had to step in and read the tease into the next segment of the show. Later when Hoda had collected herself she said one aspect of her losing it, is that she looked around to hug someone, and no one is there, and then she said, “I guess that is part of it too. Our new normal and we’ll just get used to it.” And that is when I realized I don’t like the term “new normal” either.

I understand by actual definition “new normal” is acknowledging that it isn’t normal. But when Hoda said, “I’ll get used to it.” I thought, “NO!” Because we live in a world where “new normals” those things which seem odd because they have never been this way before. Those things which have never been accepted practices of society before and were previously considered odd or out of place are suddenly accepted, and people say, “I guess this is just the new normal.” And then one day they aren’t the “new normal” any longer, they are just “normal.”

Odd — > New Normal — > Normal

And getting comfortable with not having a friend to hug, should never become normal–so let’s not even think of getting used to this, “new normal.” Let’s just keep calling this physical distancing what it is = odd!

January 21, 2020, Genesis 21

Tim Keller once stated,

the reason people disbelieve in the gospel is not because it promises too little but because it promises too much. If you don’t understand that, you don’t even know what you’re rejecting. To reject the gospel with tears, to say, “I can’t believe in it,” with tears, that has integrity, and that shows you know what you’re rejecting. To reject it with laughter, to scoff at it, “People like that who believe things like that,” that shows ignorance.”

 Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

Sarah and Abraham both laughed at God when He promised them a child. They laughed because they could not understand.

If someone laughs at what your Christian beliefs and convictions do not be offended, pray for them.

Laughter is a sign of ignorance not a sign of true rejection.

So don’t reject those that laugh, teach them, show them, help them to understand.

January 17, 2020, Genesis 17

The focus of this chapter is the covenant of circumcision.

But what jumped out at me, were the names.

Abram to Abraham.

Sarai to Sarah.

The name of the unborn Isaac, to remind Abraham that he laughed at God’s promise.

And my favorite of all, El Shaddai. Our English Bibles translate this, “God almighty,” but it is the name God gives to Himself,

“I am El Shaddai”

El is the term for God and Shaddai is often viewed as a translation for all powerful —

but there is also “the suggestion that Shaddai is a composite term of sha (“the one who”) and dai (“is sufficient”). The later Greek versions have adopted this meaning.”

Van Groningen, G. (1988). God, Names Of. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 882). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

 Sarai and Abram who could not have children, became,

Sarah and Abraham because God is sufficient to make a great nation out of the infertile–where there is nothing, God is sufficient to make something.


January 16, 2020, Genesis 16

Proverbs 30:21-23 states,

21  Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up:  22  a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is filled with food; 23  an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maidservant when she displaces her mistress. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 30:21–23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.


We see Abram’s earth begin to tremble when the latter of the above becomes Hagar and Sarai’s reality.

Abram has shown moments of great faith and he will continue to, but he has also shown moments of great timidity and he will continue to do this also.

It is evidence that overcoming our character flaws is not the work of single moment, but the work of a lifetime . . .

As one with greater insight than I wrote,

Sanctification is not the work of a moment, an hour, a day, but of a lifetime.

White, E. G. (1911). The Acts of the Apostles. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 560.

Abram let’s Sarai rule the day in every part of this chapter. She recommends he sleep with her servant to get a child. He acquiesces–it might have been a little more intentional than acquiescing.

Sarai then gets mad at Hagar and when she asks Abram to do something about it, his response,

“Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 16:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

“Hey, I only slept with her and now she’s carrying my child, but what business is it of mine.”

Actually sounds like too many modern men that impregnate women.

It’s your body, I don’t want anything to do with it . . . it is not my problem.

Abram still a work in progress . . .

Praise God for grace!

January 15, 2020, Genesis 15

For all few of the readers of this blog, you might have noticed I missed January 14. I apologize, I started to write last night, got a major headache and shut-it-down for the night.

Rather than going back. I’m just picking-up with the next day.

In this chapter the big idea that caught my attention, was one of politics . . . please don’t tune out just yet 🙂

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 15:18–21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

This verse would indicate to me that a two-state solution in the Middle East would be a viable position.

For those who may not know what the two-state position is, here is an oversimplified explanation of the two-state concept from the New York Times,

The two-state solution would establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel — two states for two peoples. In theory, this would win Israel security and allow it to retain a Jewish demographic majority (letting the country remain Jewish and democratic) while granting the Palestinians a state.

Fisher, Max. (2016, December 29). The Two-State Solution: What It Is and Why It Hasn’t Happened. Retrieved January 15, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/29/world/middleeast/israel-palestinians-two-state-solution.html

The Bible states that the land would be to Abram offspring, as we will see in future chapters that includes Ishmael. Ishmael is seen as the ancestor from Abram over many Arab people. And God states,

Now there is definitely a Biblical point of view that sees the promise being transferred exclusively to Isaac’s line . . .

And I am probably wading into waters I don’t fully understand. But this blog is representative of my thoughts . . . and I see a Bible passage that leads me to perceive that a two-state position would be copasetic.

Even the end of the passage I quoted above, speaks of those being removed from the land as nations that predate the children of Abraham, not the nations from Ishmael.

My thoughts on Genesis 15 . . .

What say you?

January 13, 2020, Genesis 13

In Genesis 13 Abram returns to the place we first saw him worship in Genesis 12,

And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord.

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 13:3–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

And just as in chapter 12 immediately after worshiping Abram is confronted with a dilemma. The confrontation in chapter 12 led to failure.

In chapter 13 Abram now faces conflict with his nephew and his nephew’s supporters.

But could it be that Abram remembers the last time he worshiped between Bethel and Ai how quickly he lost faith?

In this confrontation, Abram resembles the generosity and humble spirit of God.

What do we see?

Abram learning and growing from his past mistakes.

Isn’t that all that we are called to do–to learn from our past–to come again to worship God and to grow . . . to be better next time?

I Need Your Social Media​

Greetings faithful readers and new readers.

I made a choice two years ago to leave the Facebook world, you can read about that here

A little over a year ago I left Twitter.

And this past February I left Instagram, you can read about that here

Unfortunately no longer being on any social media platforms has hurt the traffic on this blog now that I have returned to writing.

Now maybe this is wanting my cake (having the advertisement of social media) and eating it too (being off of social media), but I would like to ask you the reader, if you read something on this blog that you think would be helpful, interesting, encouraging, challenging to others will you please click on the buttons to the left and share these posts in your social media environs.

I would also like to encourage you to subscribe to this blog at the bottom of the page.

Thank you for your help.

January 12, 2020,​ Genesis 12

“Consistency” was the word that came to my mind when I read Genesis 12 this morning.

God’s consistency.

Humanity’s lack of consistency.

The chapter begins with God making a promise to Abram (this is before God renamed him Abraham),

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great . . .

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 12:2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

And the chapter ends with God being faithful to that promise. I won’t add the entire story here, but read it for yourself and Abram while he was in Egypt received,

"sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels." (v. 16b)

 Also, The Lord protected Abram from the Pharaoh in Egypt (vv. 17-20)

God was consistent!

The only reason, however, that Abram had to be protected from Pharaoh is due to Abram’s inconsistency towards God!

God made a promise to Abram, Abram trusted God and followed God’s leading and worshiped God,

From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 12:8–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Until things got tough.

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 12:10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 And since Abram was in a place God had not called him to go, he had to start operating under his own logic, which was to lie and betray his marital commitment (vv. 11-13).

Abram was inconsistent!

Let me point out the obvious.

God’s faithfulness is consistent.

Our faithfulness is not.

Who do you want to follow?

A consistent God . . . or your inconsistent self?

I’m going with God!




January 10, 2020 Genesis 10

What is the purpose and value of genealogies in the Bible (Because that is all Genesis 10 is)?

  1. Genealogies help to substantiate the historical accuracy of scripture.
  2. Genealogies help to confirm prophecy from the past.
  3. Genealogies remind us that God works with families. Strong families. Weak families. Intact families. Broken families.
  4. Genealogies sometimes share with us small stories or insights that we can apply to our lives for edification. Some of you may remember a little book that was very popular called, “The Prayer of Jabez.” Jabez’s story came from a genealogy, 1 Chronicles 4:9, 10. Two verses in a genealogy that God used to bless a lot of people.

So let’s not look down on genealogies. Let us mine them and see what blessing there may be for us.

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