Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey


If you have ever listened to Dave Ramsey for more than ten minutes you know that he is all about being practical. He will tell you himself that he has made a good bit of money in the financial advice market mainly by telling people things that deep down they already knew. Seriously, he proudly states on his popular radio show that he “gives you the same advice your grandmother would, only he keeps his teeth in”. So it’s really not surprising that Dave’s ideas on leadership are along the same vein. Nothing fancy, just practical implementation of things that, for the most part, should be common sense.

As a frequent listener of Dave’s radio show podcasts I had frequently heard him talk about what he referred to as Entreleadership, a blend of entrepreneur and leader. I had been impressed with the rubber meets the road practicality of what I had heard and looked forward to reading his book, Entreleadership, when it was released in September 2011. I bought the Kindle ebook version which I highly recommend as it came with embedded links to additional materials, and Dave didn’t disappoint. He starts the book by warning the reader that he is not going to introduce anything ground-breaking and he lives up to that promise. Instead, he gives examples of how to implement elements of good leadership and business that I often already knew, but failed to utilize on a regular basis. His writing style is pure Dave Ramsey, sensible, thoughtful, practical, sometimes funny, and sometimes in your face. Just like on his radio show, he tells it like it is. It was an easy, entertaining read, and I found myself having difficulty putting it down. When I was done I felt that I had gained a head-full of tips and tricks that I could, and should, actually use on a regular basis. I also had the urge to go buy some nice stationary.

All in all it was a great book. If you are a leader, ever hope to be a leader, own your own business, or have a job, I highly recommend this book. You will walk away from it with the urge to go make something happen, and have some additional tools to do so.

Check out Entreleadership here or the Kindle edition here.

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Life Lessons Study Bible (NKJV) by Max Lucado


What do you get when you mix a study Bible with a devotional and all of the insight and writing style of Max Lucado?  You get The Life Lessons Study Bible by Max Lucado.  Max takes the NKJV version of the Bible and adds his insights and teachings from years of book writing and applies them to the scriptures.  He provides margin notes that give life application lessons.  Max also sprinkles life application stories throughout each book.  There is also a section at the end of the book that includes:

  • He Did This Just for You verses.
  • Spiritual Growth verses.
  • Studies for New Believers.
  • A 30-Day Overview of the New Testament.
  • an index of Where To Turn When…

Lucado also includes a two-year devotional plan.

All in all this is an excellent life application Bible, particularly if you are a fan of Lucado.  I can see this being used in a number of settings, particularly in small groups.

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The Ultimate Gift


I haven’t posted in a while. In fact, not counting a book review, I haven’t written a post since August. Chalk it up to lack of inspiration I suppose; perhaps it was the move 200 miles across North Carolina, or more likely,  just laziness.

Regardless of the reason, I recently found inspiration in a most unlikely place, an Acura commercial. You’ve probably seen the series of commercials that I’m referring to, the one’s where people talk about or demonstrate ridiculous examples of over-indulgence in the Christmas holiday, then the announcer tells us how the way to fight this over-indulgence is to purchase an Acura for someone we love. Not that the fine folks at Honda Motors Corporation who make Acura’s have convinced me that a $45,000 plus luxury car makes a sensible Christmas gift. Quite to the contrary, the thought of it makes some of the examples of over-indulgence shown earlier in the commercial seem mundane. Don’t get me wrong, if I awake on Christmas morning to find an Acura sitting under my tree with a big red bow I won’t be rushing it back to my local dealership (by the way, I am quite partial to the TL series in case your still shopping for me).

No, the inspiration I received from these commercials was that while some guru on Madison Avenue is trying to convince us we should cut back this year and just buy a car, there are many who don’t have anything. From those who have been negatively impacted by the recession and have lost jobs, homes, and hope, to the real inspiration for this post; children in need of homes and families. Each day in this country there are thousands of children in foster care. Some have arrived there through abuse, some from neglect, some from misfortune; but all with one thing in common, a place to call home and people to call family. Some of these children will eventually be adopted. Some will return home to hopefully improved homes and families. Before these things occur though, they all need someone and someplace they can call their own. Someone to be there for them, support them, provide them with shelter, and to love them. Someone to make a real difference in their life.

So this Christmas, give the ultimate gift of your home, your heart, yourself, and become a foster parent.

After that, if you still feel the need to gift an Acura, give me a call, I think I know just the person.

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Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado


Ever find yourself amazed at the condition of the world around us? Have you ever thought that you wish things were better, but what can one person do?

Max Lucado tackles that exact topic in his book Outlive Your Life. He tells us that our goal as Christians should be to make an impact with our lives, that lasts beyond the end of our life on Earth. He confronts the fallacy that ordinary individuals don’t have the power and knowledge to make big changes in the world. He gives examples of how ordinary people made the choice to not sit idly by and pretend that hurting and despair do not inhabit the world around us. He strongly challenges believers with the fact that we are called to help others, yet he backs that challenge up with encouragement to the reader that it really is possible to achieve.

One of the best lines from the book was a quote that stated “God does not call the qualified to serve, He qualifies those He calls”.
The book is written in a style that is typical for Lucado and I found myself eagerly turning pages and moving easily through the book. Although it is geared toward believers, I believe it could have application to spurn non-believers into action as well.

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Detours


  I headed to work this morning, deciding to avoid some of the rush and traffic around Asheville on my birthday, chose a route that I had not used in a few weeks.  As I was driving along having a nice relaxing commute I was suddenly confronted with a big orange sign informing me that the road was closed ahead and to follow the posted detour.  This sign was soon followed by a barricade along with another sign pointing me in the direction of the detour, which I followed.  After that I wound up on a series of small, winding country roads complete with one-lane bridges that I would never have dreamed of taking on my way to work today.  There were times that the road was so small that I wondered if the person who had developed this detour really knew where he was leading me.  This detour added miles and time to my drive that I had not planned or intended; and I loved it!  I got to see some beautiful sights along that country drive that I never would have seen if I had been allowed to continue along the path that I had chosen, and it made me think how similar our lives are to my commute this morning.

We set out in life and create all of these dreams and plans for what we are going to be and how our life is going to look and the time-frame in which it is all going to occur.  Then the detours happen.  Dreams morph into reality.  Plans get changed.  Life starts to head in a direction that we had not intended, and begins to look like something other than what we had foreseen.   And if things we planned do occur, they rarely fit into our neat little time-frames.  I know that the life I envisioned for myself when I was in college is not what I have now.   In fact, the path that I saw my life taking two years ago is not the same path I’m on now, and that’s okay.   It’s not even just okay, it’s perfect.  Just like my detour through the countryside this morning, each roadblock and detour in my life has led me on a journey that has brought me to where I am now; which I believe is exactly where God intended for my life to be at this moment.

That’s not to say that all of the journeys have been easy.   Let’s face it, some of those detours can be narrow and winding.  I had a major roadblock in my life a year and a half ago that popped up in the form of a job loss.  This was definitely not a road I would have dreamed of choosing; but it led me to a job that I never would have considered taking if the job loss didn’t occur, and taking that job led to a promotion to a job that I love.   Had that roadblock not popped up, forcing me to take a detour that I didn’t want to take, I would never have had the opportunity that I have now.

The hard part for us is to be able to let go of our own selfish plans and desires and look to God for direction in our lives.  Our purpose in life is not to achieve the things that we desire; our purpose is to fulfill God’s desire for us, the other things are just icing on the cake.  Psalm 31:3 says “For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me”.  God is always there to lead and guide us if we are open to his direction.  All we have to do is trust His plan and enjoy the journey, detours and all.

How can I stand here, and watch the sun rise.
Follow the mountains, where they touch the sky.
Ponder the vastness, and the depths of the sea
And think for a moment, the point of it all, is to make much of me
Much of You by Steven Curtis Chapman

What detours and roadblocks have you experienced in life that turned out to be better than your original path?

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Going Through The Motions


In a rut

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This might hurt
It’s not safe
But I know that I’ve gotta make a change
I don’t care
If I break
At least I’ll be feeling something
‘Cause just ok
Is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life.  Matthew West

Have you ever had a time that you felt that you were in a rut? Hit that point where you feel that you are doing everything that you can, but your just not getting anywhere, or like your life is just on autopilot; moving along without any real input from you? I have; I think we all do at times. I know that I have hit that spot a number of times over the years; in my personal life, in my professional life, and in my spiritual life.

There are a couple of things I’ve noticed about these ruts:

  1. You don’t usually fall into ruts, you gradually slip into them. Often the slide is so subtle that you don’t even realize that you are going into the rut until you find yourself stuck in it.
  2. The longer you travel in the rut the deeper it gets. The interesting thing that happens here is that the longer you remain where you are, the harder it is to see out of the rut, let alone find your way out of it.
  3. Ruts can be comfortable. If you stay in your rut long enough it becomes your friend, your safety net, your crutch. Often, getting out of our rut means moving out of something we have grown accustomed to and have learned to rely on. Usually getting out of the rut takes some effort and can be bumpy at times.

So why bother?

I mean, we know our rut, it’s a safe rut, and it guides our journey with minimal effort from us. In our personal and professional lives, our ruts usually prevent us from going where we really want to go. Yes, our rut may be safely and smoothly guiding down the path, but is it the path we really want? The same applies to our spiritual lives. Our ultimate goal on our spiritual path is to have a personal relationship with God, and that just isn’t possible to achieve from within a rut. Sure we may be doing all the things that make it appear that we are headed in the right direction, but we’re just not quite able to get there. Revelation 3:16 says “But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”. We just can’t be lukewarm for God. In fact he would prefer that we be cold to Him instead of lukewarm. He wants to know that he has our full attention, that we aren’t just cruising along with the spiritual autopilot engaged. He wants all of us, and our actions to be hot for Him. This requires us to be intentional in our actions, focused in our worship, and faithful in our prayer; not just going through the motions, lest we be spit out like yesterdays old coffee.

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything?
Instead of going through the motions?  The Motions by Matthew West

How do you “keep it real” and avoid spiritual ruts?


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Independence Day


Today our country celebrates its independence on the

234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Most people will enjoy a day of cookouts, watermelon, ice cream, and fireworks. All of this celebrating will be done in the name of freedom; the personal freedom afforded by our government that was unheard of 234 years ago, and has been frequently copied since.

The freedoms granted to us by the constitution are all-encompassing and lay the foundation for the great nation in which we live, but there is an even greater freedom that many people don’t know. I’m talking about the freedom the comes from Christ.  John 8:36 states it plainly by saying “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free”.  It is only through Christ that we can know true freedom; a freedom that even an individual living in the most oppressed country can know.  The freedom that comes from Christ is a freedom from uncertainty, freedom from fear, freedom from sin, freedom from death.  It is only through a personal relationship with Christ that we can find the true peace and happiness that comes from this freedom.

Just like America’s freedom, this freedom did not come free; there was a heavy price that was paid.  This price was paid by Christ when he died on the cross for all of us.  But Christ was willing to pay that price so that we could all know this real freedom.  It is only through Him that we can ever experience it, and once given it can never be taken away.  If you don’t already know this freedom through Christ you can find out more here and make this your day of independence.  Now that is something to celebrate.

I am free to run
(I am free to run)
I am free to dance
(I am free to dance)
I am free to live for You
(I am free to live for You)
I am free
(I am free)
Yes, I am free
(I am free)

I Am Free by The Newsboys

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7,305…and counting


This is not my first attempt at a post about this subject. In fact, I had another post completely written

and sitting in cyber-world in rough draft waiting for me to proof; but then I got in the car this morning and pressed play on my trusty iPod and this song came on. As I listened to the song, my heart felt as though it would beat out of my chest and my eyes began to moisten; I knew I had to make another attempt at this post, because even though the first attempt was heartfelt and true it did not adequately capture what I really want to say.

I say I love you, I say I need you
I try so many ways to say how my heart beats for you
I say I’m always thinking about you
There’s no way I’d want to face this life without you
And even though these words come from deep inside me
There’s so much more I don’t have the words to say

What I Really Want To Say by Steven Curtis Chapman

Man and Woman hands

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Wow! Seven thousand, three hundred and five. When you think of it in those terms it seems so big; and when you realize I’m talking about 7,305 days it sounds like a really long time. Yet to me, it seems like no time at all.  How can over seven thousand days seem like no time at all?  It’s all about the context, and I’m referring to the 7,305 days (that’s 20 years by the way) that I have been married to my amazing wife Dena.

Although 20 years of marriage is an incredible milestone, I find it almost impossible to believe so much time has passed.  Time can be funny like that.  In a way July 1, 1990 when we said our vows seems like just yesterday; yet my life before her, without her, is so distant a memory that it is as if it never occurred.  I think that this must have been what God intended in Mark 10:8 when Jesus said “and the two shall become one flesh.  So they are no longer two but one flesh”.  I feel as though I no longer exist, and for that matter Dena no longer exists, we exist as us.  I think that is where so many couples run into trouble staying together is that feeling of no longer existing as an individual; although I see it as a good feeling.

I’m not going to say that Dena and I have had a fairytale marriage.  If this were a fairytale the beautiful princess would have been rescued by her prince and they would have lived happily ever after.  In the real world the princess doesn’t always get the prince.  Sometimes that magical kiss does nothing more than make the frog look better than the other frogs.  In the real world the princess didn’t ride off into the sunset with her knight in shining armor, she got stuck with me.  Although over the years I have intended to be the perfect husband, I have more often that not fallen miserably short.  Fortunately for me, Dena has been willing to pick me up, dust me off, and continue down the road on this journey together.  For better or worse.  For richer or poorer.  In sickness and in health.  Through stupid mistakes and bad decisions.  Through meaningless arguments and lack of expression of feelings.  Til death do us part.  For this I am eternally grateful in ways that I will never be able to adequately express, no matter how hard I try.  As Steven Curtis Chapman says in the second verse of his amazing song What I Really Want to Say:

I know that sometimes my words can be as hard as stone
And sometimes my words have left you feeling so alone
So please forgive me and hear the words I’m saying now
I will spend my whole life looking for a way somehow
To let you know just how precious you are to me
I’ll use the best words I know but I still won’t say it all

I can only say the best that I know how that I love you Dena.  I am so honored to have been allowed to be your husband for the last 20 years and wouldn’t trade one single second of it for anything.

Look out 14,610; here we come!

‘Cause what I really want to say
Is what the sun would say to the sky
For giving it a place to come alive
But my words get in the way
Of what I really want to say
Oh, what I really want to say

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In A Fog


Foggy Morning

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I love sunrise. Sunsets are beautiful but there is something about the light of a new day chasing away the darkness of night.

So this morning I woke up at my usual 5:15 and after getting ready for work I headed out the door, looking for the sun starting to peak over the mountains. It was nowhere to be seen. Had the sun deserted us; heading for a planet where its rays could shine through, unfiltered by Earth’s pollution? Nope, the sun was there, doing it’s thing, shining it’s light with all of the brilliance it normally has. I couldn’t see it though, not through any fault of the sun but because of me, or rather where I was; I was in a bank of fog.

This is a perfect analogy of our relationship with God. He is unmoving. He never leaves us. He constantly tries to shine his light into our lives, but sometimes He can’t because of the fog in our lives. While regular fog is of pretty simple composition, the fog in our lives can be much more complicated, with multiple ingredients. The fog in you life can be any distraction that prevents God’s light from fully shining in your life. It can be financial stressors, work demands, relationship problems, or the biggest personal fog creator of all, sin.

A few interesting things I have observed about this fog in our lives is that:

1. You often don’t even realize that it is developing until you are so enveloped in it that you can no longer see God’s light in your life, and start to lose your direction. We all know that feeling when we are driving in a fog so thick that you can barely see the road; it’s scary.

2. Your attempts to illuminate your own path will probably make things worse. When we’re driving in the fog and it gets difficult to see, our first instinct is to make those headlights brighter in order to better light the way. This only serves to further blind us when the light reflects off of the fog. The best way to increase your vision is to get out of the fog.

3. The fog may be difficult to get out of. As I was driving to work this morning I found that as time passed I started seeing clear patches where the sun shone through and the blue sky was visible; then I would take a curve into an area that was beyond the reach of the sun and slip back into the fog. Although there is nowhere that we can go that is beyond the reach of God, he will not force us to stay in his light, we have to do that ourselves.

The good news is that even when we lose sight of Him, God never leaves us. He is always there, shining with all of His glory, just waiting for an opportunity to touch our lives with his light and provide the illumination to guide our way. We just need to clear the fog.

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” ~ ESV

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Strength


We can only know
The power that He holds
When we truly see how deep our weakness goes;
His strength in us begins
Where ours comes to an end.
He hears our humble cry and proves again . . .

Steven Curtis Chapman “His Strength is Perfect”

So last Saturday I wrote a post about an exceptionally bad week that had occurred and how I thought that my current living situation and lack of sleep had contributed to my ability to handle the events of the week. After I posted that I received several words of encouragement including one from an individual to remind me that God will not place more on you than you can handle. We all know this statement or variations of it, and if we have been believers for more than a couple of days we have probably used this phrase to encourage someone else. I appreciated the sentiment behind the expression of that statement, but it got me thinking; “God never gives us more than we can handle”:

Oh really?

The more I thought about this common phrase the more I doubted it’s validity, at least on face value. In fact, I began to think that the notion that God would never allow us to experience any situation in life that is too much for us to bear was actually quite preposterous. The conclusion I reached is that God does in fact, probably on a fairly regular basis, allows us to experience situations in our lives that are more than we can handle. I also concluded that God has good reason for allowing us to find ourselves in these situations:

God desires a relationship with us. I have to admit that I tend to turn to God and strive to relate more regularly and with more intensity when I am experiencing difficulties. As much as I want and intend to have a close relationship with God, the relationship never seems to click the way it does when I am in difficult times. When I am in the valleys of life I have no choice but to look up toward God. When I make it through the valley and onto the next peak I get distracted by the view. Somehow I doubt that I’m the only one.

By allowing us to experience valleys in life, God is inviting us to look to him to get us through. And in those times that the valleys are particularly deep, He is there with His strength to carry us.  If God made sure that we never had to handle more in life than our own strength could bear, how many of us would never turn to him for help?  Steven Curtis Chapman said it quite elegantly in his song His Strength is Perfect, “We can only know the power that He holds, when we truly see how deep our weakness goes.”

So its not about God preventing us from experiencing situations in life that are more than we can handle; it’s a matter of knowing that regardless of how weak and unable we may be to bear the pressure, God’s strength is perfect and there is no situation in life that he cannot bear for us.  Phillipians 4:13

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone;
He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on.
Raised in His power, the weak become strong;
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect.

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