Review of Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

Are you interested in living a safe, comfortable life that looks like the American Dream? If so, don’t read this book.

It’s been a little while since I read a Max Lucado book, but I think Outlive Your Life might go down as one of his greatest works, if not his best. From the very first chapter to the end of the book he consistently looks at stories of the early church in the Book of Acts and how that group of Christians lived lives that were bigger than themselves. They changed the world around them.

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My Top Ten Most Popular Posts, July-September 2010

Here’s a quick look at the posts that got the most traffic on my blog, along with a few thoughts about each.

  1. Goodbye DirecTV, Hello FiOS TV! Even though I wrote this post over 4.5 years ago, it still remains my most popular post by far. About 17% of the traffic to my blog is to this post. My idea was to write the review that didn’t exist at the time of what FiOS TV was really like. It was really in-depth and based on both the traffic it gets (still) and the number of comments it has received most people agree. It’s definitely out of date now, but still gets a bunch of hits.
  2. How I Pack and Ship Books (It’s Easy, Cheap, and Keeps Them Safe). This post was a step-by-step guide on what I do when I sell books. It’s dirt cheap and super simple. If you sell or trade books you should check it out!
  3. Countdown Timer for Church. A few years back at my last church we were trying to be better at keeping our services from running too long. One of the things that our preacher wanted was a countdown timer. I did some investigation and discovered they weren’t cheap, so I decided to figure out how to make one myself. We ended up with a very usable system and I decided to give it away for free to anyone who wanted it. So if your church needs a free stage countdown timer you can download it, too.
  4. The iPad Commercial Apple Doesn’t Want You to See. I have an iPad and I really thought this video from Newsday was clever and funny. The original video I linked to was taken down pretty quickly, but I found another that’s up and you can still see it.
  5. Pitch Your Tent Guy. Being a minister, I know it’s easy to make mistakes while your teaching. But it’s pretty unusual to make this big of a flub in a room full of teenagers. Blake‘s a great guy and continues to do great ministry now in Nashville, TN at Cross Point Church.
  6. What Should a Pastor’s Salary Be? I got the idea for this post from the news making a big deal about Ed Young’s salary and perks. This was just some simple thoughts on different perspectives on how to pay a pastor.
  7. Five Easy Ways to Listen to the ESV Audio Bible for Free Anytime, Anywhere. I have a feeling that this post is going to rise in popularity in the coming months. It was one of my favorite posts of all time.
  8. Two Mega-church Pastors in Dallas, Two Completely Different Views from the Media. Similar to #7, but less about money and more about how our culture views pastors.
  9. The Biggest Flaw in John Hollinger’s ESPN NBA Power Rankings. I probably was just venting my frustration living as a Mavericks fan on this one, but still pretty good thoughts over all.
  10. RememberTheMilk.com Smart Add Cheat Sheet. I like making things simple and this little cheat sheet makes my life simpler many days.

Those were my most popular posts according to the stats. Was there a post that you really liked that didn’t make the list? Share in the comments.

Sunday Night Unfiltered

Lots of action today!
  • Today was a great day. Busy for a lot of people around me, but really good.
  • I don’t think I’ll ever get used to my alarm going off at 5:00 am. It’s always worth it for me, though, since I get to spend a few hours of uninterrupted time studying Scripture.
  • Preached through the entire chapter of Revelation 21 this morning. It’s been a long time since I’ve covered that big of a chunk of text. Was it too much?
  • Had some great positive feedback after worship. I hope the impact of my message lasts longer than the 10 minutes following the service.
  • As usual, I had to cut some stuff out. One of the things I wanted to dive into more was the statement “It is done” in Revelation 21:6. It parallels so much with the last words of Jesus on the cross, “It is finished.” I wish I had more time to dive into that parallel and the similarities and differences between the finished work on the cross and the ultimate finished work at the resurrection. Cool things to think about.
  • I talked a little about Joseph Kittinger’s space jump. You can read more about his crazy story here.
  • Didn’t mean to, but I got an almost two hour nap this afternoon on the couch holding Lilyana. Woke up 15 minutes before Connection Group, so I ended being a little late (sorry everybody).
  • Gooey butter cake will change your life. I could get used to this dessert at Connection Group every week thing.
  • The insights of my group always impress me. I’ve got a great bunch of people in my group.
  • Will Warfel pulled one of these this morning. And then after service he pulled this. I think he’s Jon Acuff’s alter-ego.
  • I bought the most expensive electric razor I’ve ever bought yesterday. I’m tired of dropping so much cash on razor blades. I hope I get a few years of use out of this one.
  • I’m pumped about going to Catalyst Conference again this year. I’m even more pumped that Brea is going! Watch out Atalanta!

Alright, that’s it for this week. Sleep well everyone!

How to Add the Catalyst 2010 Schedule to Your iPhone’s Calendar

In a week, Brea and I will be in Atlanta with 10,000 of our closest friends for the Catalyst Conference. I went for the first time last year and had a blast and I’m really excited to be able to go again this year. In preparation for the conference, I decided I wanted to have the schedule on my iPhone to keep track of things easier than fumbling with the printed calendar in the booklet.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, it’s fairly easy for you to do this, too. I use Google Calendar as my primary calendar, which makes it easy to create new calendars to share with others. Here’s how you can get the schedule added to your iPhone, too.

1. Make sure you’re setup right to sync with Google Calendar

Michael Hyatt has a great post on how to do this, so I’m not going into detail here. Check out his post and you’ll be setup in no time.

2. Add the Catalyst 2010 Calendar to your Google Calendar

Look under Other calendars for  Add. Click that, then click Add by URL.

3. Copy and paste the URL for the calendar

Next, copy and paste this link into the box that pops up.

4. Add the Catalyst Atlanta 2010 Calendar to your iPhone calendars

You might need to go through the steps outlined again in Michael Hyatt’s blog to make the Catalyst Atlanta 2010 calendar appear in the list of calendars on your iPhone (I did). Once it’s visible on your iPhone just make sure it’s selected and you should be good to go. If you’re not currently in the Eastern Time Zone the times will probably be listed early. Don’t worry. It should adjust the times when you arrive in Atlanta.

If you use iCal, Outlook, or some other software to manage your calendars you can download the ics file and add it to your device, too.

Any questions or comments? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Night Unfiltered

It was a great day today! Here’s some reflections on Sunday and other thoughts from this past week (in no particular order):

  • One of my daily highlights is Bible Heroes Story time with the family. It’s a cool book that comes with songs for each story. Emory LOVES to dance to every song. I’m gonna miss these times later in life (and it will come WAY TOO SOON).
  • Played guitar in worship for the first time at BridgeWay. I forgot how much of an awesome thing it is to watch people worship.
  • Speaking of worship, I don’t really miss my old guitar that got stolen any more. My new one sounds really, really good.
  • Tried out YouVersion Live again for sermon notes and bible verses in worship today. I only tweeted/facebooked about it. Didn’t mention it during the service. Did you try it?
  • Got linked to by ChurchCrunch yesterday. Thanks John!
  • Started working on a site of what I think is going to be one of the coolest things I’ll ever create. More on that on a later date.
  • I wonder how many Cowboys fans still want to get rid of Roy Williams and David Buehler?
  • Had a great Connection Group again tonight. Love those guys and gals!
  • The weather was so nice today!
  • Next Sunday I’m preaching about the New Heaven & New Earth. Probably going to focus most of my time on Revelation 21. Got any ideas for me?

That’s it for this week!

Five Easy and Free Ways to Listen to the ESV Audio Bible

Photo courtesy of flickr user Rae Whitlock

Looking for an easy way to listen to the Bible for free on your terms? Look no further. If you follow the instructions below you’ll be able to listen to the ESV Bible any time, any place. You can easily stream audio of the ESV to your iPhone, iPad, or other smartphone (as long as it can play MP3s). You can quickly listen to the verse(s) you want from Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer. You’ll be able to listen to a daily Bible Reading Plan with just a click!

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Read on and you’ll be amazed out how quickly and easily you’ll be listening to the Scriptures of your choice.

Listen Anywhere

No matter where you are or from whatever device you’re using (as long as it can play MP3s) you can quickly listen to specific Scriptures using the form below. Try it!

The little search box above should work most of the time, but maybe you’d like search directly from your browser. So, here’s how you can do it from three popular browsers.

Listen Using Google Chrome

One of the most useful features that Google Chrome has built into it is its ability to add custom “search engines” to the address bar. Using this feature you can get to the audio of any passages you want in just a few simple steps.

1. Click the wrench button then click preferences.

2. Click the “Manage” button to the right of default search.

3. Click the + symbol to add a custom search engine.

4. Enter the following info:

  • Name: ESV MP3 (or whatever you prefer)
  • Keyword: esvm (or something else, but keep it short)
  • URL: http://www.esvapi.org/v2/rest/passageQuery?key=IP&output-format=mp3&passage=%s

Once you’ve added the custom search engine you’ll type your keyword, press tab, type your reference(s), and press enter. The next thing you know you’ll be listening the Bible being read to you!

Listen Using Firefox

When I started writing this post I thought adding the ability to search for ESV Audio MP3s in Firefox was going to be really difficult for me to explain. Turns out it’s ridiculously easy (now that I did a LOT of trial and error). All you have to do to add the ESV Audio search is:

  1. Click on the search engine icon next to the search box.
  2. In the drop-down box click Add “ESV Audio”

That’s it. Really. Once you do those two steps (from this page, of course) you’ll have the ESV Audio search added to your Firefox search engines. Now you’ll be able to quickly listen to any Scripture right in your browser. Try it out!

Listen Using Internet Explorer

The process for Internet Explorer is about the same as Firefox. One difference is the drop-down arrow to the right of the search box will change colors to let you know there is a search engine available on the page. I’ll update this post with clearer instructions once I’m booted into Windows.

Listen to a Daily Bible Reading Plan

And as an added bonus you can follow a daily reading plan via audio too.  There are a few nice plans to choose from. Quickly listen to any of the reading (or I guess listening plans) by clicking below:

Whew. This post became a big undertaking. I’d love to get some feedback from you. Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments below. Also, I’ve had a weird issue with my iPhone cutting off the last few verses of the MP3 that I’m listening to. Let me know if you’re having the same problem.
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Please note. The ESV translation is copyright, so the following applies:

The ESV text may be quoted for audio use (audio cassettes, CDs, audio television) up to two hundred fifty (250) verses without express written permission of the publisher providing that the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible nor do the verses quoted account for 50 percent or more of the total text of the work in which they are quoted.

So, basically don’t save an MP3 of a whole book or more than 250 verses. If you’re streaming to your iPhone you should be fine.

The iPad Commercial Apple Doesn’t Want You to See

Apple can be a bit sensitive at times. Apparently they’ve told Newsday to pull a commercial from their website or else they would pull their app from the app store. The video is embedded below (at least until Apple makes Google pull it from YouTube). I guess they don’t like the idea of people smashing their iPad to pieces. I think the video is really funny and actually doesn’t hurt the iPad brand at all, but I’m not Steve Jobs.

Thanks to Consumerist for the story.

If the ad happens to get pulled before you get a chance to see it contact me and I might be able to help you find it using other means.

See also: my review of the iPad.

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UPDATE [5:34 PM CDT]: Apparently Newsday asked YouTube to pull the original video for copyright infringement, so I updated the video to another one. Let’s see how long this one stays up.

Sunday Night Unfiltered

This is my second week of random reflections of my day at church and a look back at the past week. I’ll be doing this every Sunday…or until I get bored with it.

  • It’s a weird feeling to drive by an ambulance then find out you know the person who it’s there for. I’m praying that Zach doesn’t have any major injuries and that he will be completely healed.
  • Our new tool The City allowed us to spread the word for people to pray for Zach really efficiently and it was really cool to see people responding that they were praying (over 18 people said they were praying within the hour!!!).
  • Skipped out on the 11:00 service today to go to the Bears game (since they won I can say it that way for sure now). I didn’t like not seeing everyone at that service.
  • Information and conversations happen so rapidly before and after services. I need to tweak my system of collecting info to keep up. I can’t seem to type fast enough into my iPhone to capture everything I need to remember.
  • Art had a great start to the sermon series on heaven this morning. It’s going to be a great next six weeks looking at what the Bible really has to say about heaven. Check out Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven if you want to get more out of the series.
  • The Cowboys Stadium is an awesome venue for football. I’m glad I didn’t have to spend $1.4 billion on it, though.
  • Even though we only had one other couple at Connection Group tonight we still had a really good time. Great insight from Scott tonight about how mind-blowing it is that the New Jerusalem is about 1,500 miles HIGH. That’s crazy tall and you can get a perspective on it by remembering that airplanes only fly 6-8 miles high. Crazy!!!
  • It was awesome to get out of town for a few days with Brea. Chicago in late summer is really nice. Wrigley Field is a really cool venue for concerts. The John Hancock Observatory has much better view of the city than Sears Tower.

That’s my thoughts from today. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Sometimes Scripture Messes With My Head, Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about Judges 11 where Jephthah made a vow to God, which ended up with Jephthah “sacrificing” his only child (a daughter) to God. Today I want to expand on a few things.

First, I think it’s really, really important to remember that in this situation God did not ask Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter. In fact, God’s voice in this section is completely silent. Nowhere does the Bible say that God was pleased with the sacrifice. In fact, I know from other Scriptures that God was no doubt was repulsed by it. There are quite a few Scriptures that strictly forbid human sacrifice (Lev. 18:21; 20:2; Deut. 12:31; 18:10; Jer. 19:5;). The reason this prohibition was needed was the other pagan religions surrounding Israel encouraged child sacrifice in order to appease their gods.

Second, Jephthah had the option of not killing his daughter. Take a look at what Leviticus 5:4-6 has to say on this:

If anyone utters with his lips a rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that people swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and he realizes his guilt in any of these; when he realizes his guilt in any of these and confesses the sin he has committed, he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin (ESV).

This law makes it completely clear that he could have repented of the sin of making a rash oath to God and there was a means to forgiveness. I get the impression that Jephthah was more interested in his own reputation than doing what would ultimately please the Lord. He made an oath and thought he would appear weak to others if he admitted he was wrong.

Third, I think this passage shows us how terribly wrong things can go when we act out of our own selfish impulses instead of seeking God’s will. When we make rash promises to others we can let them down. When we make life decisions without dedicated times of prayer our lives can be impacted negatively, to say the least.

Overall, I’m both perplexed at this passage and in awe of it at the same time. What makes me respond in awe is that it is included at all in the Bible. The Bible is a raw, uncensored look at humanity in both its purest and most raw forms. We can do terrible things to each other, and yet, somehow, God chooses to love us.

Thank you, Lord, for loving a sinner like me.

Sometimes Scripture Messes With My Head

When was the last time you read something in the Bible and it really messed with your head? It happened to me really bad on Saturday. What I mean by messed with my head is that I didn’t like what I read. Not even a little. I was reading from Judges 11 about Jephthah and his “Tragic Vow” (that’s an understated heading from the ESV). Here’s a rundown of what happend and the verses that really bugged be.

  • Jephtah’s dad, Gilead, had a wife and other kids, but Jephtah’s mom was a prostitute. Not the greatest start to life.
  • His brothers drove him away from the family to keep him from getting any inheritance. Being an outcast isn’t fun.
  • It’s noted that he was a “mighty warrior” and that Israel turned to him for help against an enemy.
  • He agreed to help them if they put him in charge once he came and destroyed their enemy.

Alright that sets up the part of the chapter that really, really bugged me:

Judges 11:30–39 (ESV)
And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them. . . . Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child. . . . [Jephtah] tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.” And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth. . . . And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made.

As a father of two young girls this chapter bugs me. In fact, it makes me nauseous. Why in the world would a dad do this to his daughter? Why would God allow this to happen? Why is this even in the Bible?

So I did some digging and some things started to rise to the surface. There are a couple takeaways I learned:

  1. Jephthah’s background was with foreign gods whose religions taught that child sacrifice was one of the only ways to appease them. This no doubt shaped the way he thought of Yahweh God.
  2. The major difference between this episode and Abraham’s near sacrifice is that God initiated the sacrifice, but here Jephthah was in a sense testing God. In fact, throughout this narrative God’s voice is never heard.
  3. Jephthah’s reaction to his daughter was selfish. He was more concerned about his own feelings of loss than his daughter.
  4. His daughter was completely accepting of the “fate” that was dealt to her. There’s no mention of God’s role here.

There’s quite a bit more that I could write about this because I have a lot more thoughts and feelings on the matter, but I want to know what you think. What does this passage teach you about God? About how people put God to a test? About the Bible as a whole?

I’ll share some more thoughts tomorrow, but share your thoughts today in the comments below!

UPDATE: Read more of my thoughts about Jephthah here.