Sherman (book review)

I find biographies of leaders fascinating. And few Civil War leaders are a more fascinating study than William Tecumseh Sherman, as portrayed in Sherman: The Ruthless Victor by Agostino Von Hassell and Ed Breslin.

Sherman was a man driven by two forces which almost seem contradictory: (1) the desire to make a name for himself, without the help of other; and (2) the almost debilitating fear of trying to attempt anything that wasn’t guaranteed to be successful. Whereas the first might drive him to be something of an entrepreneur, the second would seem to keep him satisfied with the status quo. Ultimately the entrepreneurial force drove him forward.

In fact, it drove him forward so ruthlessly and mercilessly, that his name is still uttered as a curse word in the South, and one of the most fearsome military machines—the Sherman tank—was so aptly named after him.

As I read this biography, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for General Sherman. For a man who had been given so many advantages and opportunities, he seemed not only ungrateful for them, but almost contemptuous of them. In the end, the only thing that gave him satisfaction was totally annihilating everything in his path; including his marriage, his family, and his friends. Sad!

But Sherman is still an important read for any student of leadership. I can’t help but wondering how history might have been different if a mentor might have come alongside Sherman to help him use his God-given talents in a more judicious and beneficial way.

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.


Since my wife and kids are all out of school for their Christmas break, I’m taking a little blog vacation too. I’ll be back with some new posts in January 2012.

In the meantime, I will still be tweeting from time to time. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking here.

Have a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Pray More

I love this passage from J.C. Ryle that I read on the J.C. Ryle Quotes blog.

Pray for yourselves—that you may know the Lord Jesus, and cleave to Him—that you may be kept from falling—that you may serve your generation—that you may be sober in prosperity, patient in trial, and humble at all times.

Pray for the congregation to which you belong—that the word of the Lord may have free course in it, and be glorified—that the household of faith may become stronger and stronger, and the household of unbelief weaker and weaker.

Pray for your country—that her ministers may preach the Gospel, and be sound in the faith—that her rulers may value the Bible, and govern according to it—and that so her candlestick may not be taken away.

And pray for your minister—that he may be strong to work, and willing to labor for your good, that all his sicknesses may be sanctified, and all his health given to the Lord—that he may be ever taught of the Spirit, and thus be able to teach others—that he may be kept faithful unto death, and so be ready to depart when he is called.

Let us all pray, one for the other—I for you, and you for me—and we shall be blessed in our deed!

We can never pray too much!

Thursdays With Oswald—Choose Health

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Choose Health

     Such passages as Romans 12:2 (‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’) and Ephesians 4:23 (‘be renewed in the spirit of your mind’) apply directly to the moral life of those who have been supernaturally saved by the grace of God, those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells and is at work. To renew means to transform to new life. These passages make it clear that we can be renewed in our mind when we choose. … Continual renewal of mind is the only healthy state for a Christian.

From Biblical Ethics

Far too often it seems easier to say, “If only God would change me” or “I pray that the Spirit would free me from…,” when in reality you can choose to be renewed.

God gave you a mind, emotions, and a will. Even if you don’t think you can be free, you can choose to be renewed. Even if you don’t feel free, you can choose to be renewed.

Stop letting your mind or your emotions keep you from the freedom that could be yours! Remember: “Continual renewal of mind is the only healthy state for a Christian.”

Evangelizing The Evangelized?

I was talking to a friend the other day about church growth, and we both notice something disturbing: Most of the “new” people coming to church are actually not so new. Much of what has been called church growth is actually church transplants.

We’re not reaching the lost. Ouch!

I think Howard Hendricks nails it with this:

The Gospel is failing to produce results in some places today because it lacks an audience. Christians in churches are busy evangelizing the evangelized. We constantly face the danger of developing a fortress mentality: making occasional excursions into unfriendly territory and scurrying back to the safety of our church and its people when opposition arises. We tend to derive security from friendly surroundings rather than from Jesus Christ, and so we fail to penetrate our society for Christ.

I pray my greatest strength is my relationship with Jesus Christ, and that my driving passion is for others to know this beautiful relationship too.

May God help me to have an audience in Cedar Springs!

Pray Long

How long is a long prayer? Do you get tired (or bored!) after just a few minutes? Do you start to nod off to sleep if the prayer goes longer than expected? Does your mind wander? Are you too busy to pray more than just bullet-point prayers?

Jesus was about to make a huge decision. Of all of the people who called themselves His disciples (there were a lot of them), Jesus was going to choose twelve to be His apostles (Luke 6:13, 17). These were the men who would spend the most time with Jesus; the ones who would hear His most explicit instructions; the ones who would be called upon to take the gospel to the four points of the globe after Christ’s ascension into Heaven.

How did Jesus choose The Twelve from the huge multitude?

“He spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12).

This Greek word for spent the night is unique in all of Scripture. Only Luke uses it here to describe how Jesus prayed. Doctor Luke—who would know better than most how the body craves sleep—uses this unique word. In essence Jesus was going to cease from all activity AND avoid any inactivity (like sleep) to pray about this important decision.

Principle: The bigger the issue = the longer the prayer.

  • How many times do I pray just one-and-done prayers?
  • How many times am I too distracted/tired/busy to pray more than a few minutes?
  • What wisdom am I robbing myself of by my short prayers?

Don’t get me wrong, God does answer the one word prayers (like HELP!). But there is something powerful about praying long.

A Beautiful Mess

I’m a neat-and-tidy guy. I like everything to be in its place, so clutter drives me crazy.

So you can imagine how this proverb initially stuck me…

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. (Proverbs 14:4)

A loose translation goes like this: If you want something to be productive, you sometimes have to put up with a mess.

Oh boy!

I’ve been learning that lately. In my interim role at the En Gedi Youth Center, in our own church’s Impact youth group, even around my house the “messiness” means people are there. I could have everything all spiffed up, but then that would mean no kids … no laughter … no ministry … no life-changing interactions.

So I’m learning that I’ll take the mess to get the interaction with others.

Lord, help me appreciate the beautiful messes in my life!

Serve Him Where You Are

“You have been wishing for another position where you could do something for Jesus: do not wish anything of the kind, but serve Him where you are.”

—Charles H. Spurgeon

I’ve been talking about God’s Gifts at Calvary Assembly of God. One of His most amazing gifts is closer than many think. Hint: look in the mirror!

I hope you can join me this Sunday morning at 10:30am to learn more.

Thursdays With Oswald—No Substitution

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

No Substitution

     If in preaching the gospel you substitute your knowledge of the way of salvation for confidence in the power of the gospel, you hinder people from getting to reality. Take care to see while you proclaim your knowledge of the way of salvation, that you yourself are rooted and grounded by faith in God. Never rely on the clearness of your presentation, but as you give your explanation make sure that you are relying on the Holy Spirit. Rely on the certainty of God’s redemptive power, and He will create His own life in people.

From My Utmost For His Highest

The apostle Paul said,

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. …My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:1, 4, 5)

As a pastor I have be so careful that I am steeped in the Word of God. It’s not my persuasive words that will win people to Christ, or draw them into a deeper relationship with God. My words will only be effective to the extent that they are God’s words. Yes, I still must study to be a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth (1 Timothy 2:15), but I must not allow my “knowledge” to ever be a substitute for the purity of the Word of God.

Practical Is Spiritual

In Matthew 25, Jesus shows how very practical acts of service are also very spiritual acts of service. Quite simply Jesus says,

  • If someone’s hungry, give them food.
  • If they’re thirsty, given them water.
  • If they need a visit, go visit them.

What makes these practical acts spiritual is this word from our Heavenly Father: Whatever you did for those in need, you did for Me.”

So here’s a very practical—and spiritual—thing Calvary Assembly of God is doing this Christmas: A Bottom Blessing. We’re accepting donations of diapers, pull-ups, and wipes to take to the Alpha Family Center. This crisis pregnancy resource center in Cedar Springs helps so many young families, so we want to help them in a very practical way. Anytime between now and Christmas Day, bring your diapers or wipes to the church, and we’ll deliver them to Alpha.

If you don’t live around Cedar Springs, find a practical way to help others in need in your community. As you do, you’ll be doing something very spiritual as well… something to which God says, Well done!

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