Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down – A Review

ordinary-bookI had a mixed reaction to Tony Merida’s book, Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down, published by B&H Publishing in 2015. The premise was good. Christian faith isn’t about light shows and performance. Faith is lived out everyday in our ordinary lives. My concerns were not with the idea of practical faith, but with the insistence in how that faith would be accomplished.

The author explicitly states that salvation is a gift of grace (p. 24), so he is not describing a works-based system of salvation. However, he has added his own how-to list for what Christians must do. The author itemizes at least twelve things that Christians must do to love their neighbor, but the Bible has no such list that applies universally to all Christians.

“My point is that we must have an open heart/home toward people that extends beyond what’s comfortable…,” (p. 41).

“Every Christian must do something to care for the orphan,” (p. 80).

“Sometimes we must do emergency relief; but we must also tend to the matters of restoration and development,” (p. 82).

“So we must help provide financial aid,” (p. 84).

“First, churches must strengthen their relationships with orphanages,” (p. 85).

“Further, we must help our Christian businessmen and women get a vision for orphan care,” (p. 85).

On the positive side, the book challenges us to take care of our neighbors and addresses several social issues and taking Scripture back to the basics. I found the book to be a great mechanism for self-evaluation. It provides a way to examine what we each are individually doing to share God’s grace with our community.

I would recommend this book to mature Christians who understand the biblical mandate to love God and love others does not come with a specific to do list. We should let God challenge each individual to use the gifts and talents they have been given to advance and glorify the Kingdom of God in their own way.


Disclosure: A free copy of the book was provided in exchange for a review of the text.

The World Has Come To Us


There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

I recently finished reading Cultural Intelligence: Improving Your CQ to Engage Our Multicultural World by David Livermore. The author walks you through information to help you understand what you do when you encounter someone who isn’t like you, how do you feel, and what goes on inside you.

There’s something secure and stabilizing about being with people who view the world like us. Laughing together about things we find funny, ranting together about things that anger us, and sharing an appreciation for some of the same food, art, and perspectives on the world can be the ingredients for building wonderful memories together. But quite honestly, there’s nothing very remarkable about enjoying time with people like us. If you want to see remarkable then love and appreciate someone who despises the very things we value and vice versa. Yet the real mystery of the gospel lies in how we deal with those relationships of difference.

A multicultural focus was once limited to missionaries going abroad, but the question of how ministry leaders and their organizations can effectively minister in culturally diverse situations is a critical and challenging problem for everyone in our globalized world. Developing cultural intelligence is becoming an increasingly important skill for ministry leaders serving at home. We need to understand, go deep, and express God-given love for people of different generations, faiths, ethnicity, and even politics.

Have you experienced ministry in a multicultural context? How did you handle the situation and equip your women to serve in that situation? Do you have any suggestions that might help others? We would love to hear your ideas.


The past two years I have been trying to balance a full-time job, part-time ministry position, and a full time doctoral program!  It has been a lot to balance and I have not always done it very well.

When you are juggling that many responsibilities there is always something that gets dropped and for me that has been my personal health. Since starting the doctoral program I have gained 30 pounds! That is the freshman fifteen each year! Something needed to change. It was becoming hard to do the things that I needed to do, much less the things I wanted to do.

Leader, if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t continue to lead at the level needed to help your team be successful. You certainly can’t lead a team to be healthy if you are living an unhealthy lifestyle. The healthier you are – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally – the more health you can bring to the team.

I have been intentional about my health the past four months and have lost those 30 pounds! More important, I am now careful to keep the scales more balanced. Work, ministry, school, and health are all important. Each may get a little more attention for a few days, but I do not not let any one or two areas take over my schedule anymore.

Now it is your turn. Be honest.

What is one thing you would need to change in order to live a more balanced life?

Mac Lake on Leadership

Read a great post by Mac Lake and thought if I just put the link you might not go read it… so here is his article. 


January 18, 2016 – Mac Lake – Leadership

Years ago I heard leadership coach and author Bob Biehl say that he loves to collect questions.  That thought intrigued me.  So since that time I’ve been a student and collector of questions.

Lou Holtz once said, “I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.” Questions challenge us to see things from a different perspective and guide us to breakthrough behaviors.  You can be stuck and discouraged in one moment but with the aid of the right question, an instant later you’re flooded with fresh ideas and motivation.

Here are 12 of my favorite questions.  Chew on a few of these today and see what new insights or direction you might discover.

  1. What would a great leader do in this situation?  (Bill Hybels, Pastor Willowcreek Community Church)
  2. What do I believe is impossible to do in my field, but if it could be done, will fundamentally change my business? (Joel Barker, author of Paradigms)
  3. What is the wise thing to do?  (Andy Stanley, Pastor Northpoint Church)
  4. What is the single best measurable indicator that I am making progress toward my dream? Bob Biehl
  5. What are the “elephants” in my schedule? (Pareto said, “If you’re Noah, and your ark is about to sink, look for the elephants first.”) (Don’t know who asked this one but I like it)
  6. How can we become the company that would put us out of business? (Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group)
  7. What counts that we are not counting? (Chip Conley, head of global hospitality for Airbnb)
  8. What should we stop doing? (Peter Drucker, management expert and author)
  9. What are the gaps in my knowledge and experience? (Charles Handy, author and management expert)
  10. If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would he do? (Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel )
  11. What advice would you give you if you were in your situation? (Came as a result of me having a pity party about my own situation several years ago)
  12. What questions do you have that you’d like answers to?  (From Action Learning Method)

Here’s one more bonus question, undoubtedly the most important question you can answer, “Who do you say I am? (Jesus, Mark 8:29)

What great question do you like to wrestle with?

52-Week Bible Story Devotional

big picture devotionalThe Gospel Project has created a 52-week Bible story devotional for children. I wanted to review the book as a potential birthday gift for my great-nephew, but now that I have seen it he might not get it – I might keep it for myself! Just kidding, I will give it to him, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the book!

When the devotional arrived I was expecting colorful pictures and solid theology in a language children could understand. All of that was delivered, but with so much more! Each devotional provides:

Read It: Scripture references

Watch It: QR code reader that opens a full video story

Pop-Up Pictures: Using a free application the story pictures become 3-D

Christ Connection: Explains how Jesus is there from Genesis to Revelation

Live Big: Life application of the devotional information

Big Picture Questions: Family discussion questions to go beyond the devotional

There is something for every learning style – visual, auditory, or tactile. Your child will be able to interact with the material and have the information reinforced through fun learning activities. The Big Picture Questions provide a great way to involve the whole family in the devotional time.

I can remember when I was a young child we had a book of 365 Bible Stories. I would climb up on a chair to get it down from the closet shelf to read and look at the pictures. I loved to read those Bible stories and become a part of the adventure of Daniel in the lions den or Moses parting the waters. This book will provide those same types of memories for your children. It brings the Bible to life in a way 21st century children can understand and connect through.

I highly recommend the 52-Week Bible Story Devotional written by Anna Sargeant and published by B&H publishing group. After you have used the book I would love to hear about your experiences and how your children use the interactive portions of the devotional.

For more information go to: http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/big-picture-interactive-52-week-bible-story-devotional

The children’s devotional is also available through most Christian book stores.

A copy of 52-Week Bible Story Devotional was provided for the purpose of this review.

If and But


I was talking with a friend the other day, lamenting about my life situation, and her response was “If  ifs and buts were candy and nuts then we all would have a good Christmas.”  I laughed at the line, but I understood the point she was making.

I am notorious for saying “IF I can just get past  this (event/meeting/project), then I can do all these other things I want to do.” My other favorite line is “I would have done (fill in blank) BUT this other thing needs to be done.”  I’ve lost the balance of work and play, but it’s hard to make it all work, right?  So, I tucked this little saying into my back pocket and went on with life as usual.

Then a group of friends went out to lunch and we are all talking about schedules, priorities, and how hard it is to get things done.  I could hear the candy and nuts being tossed out by each of us.  Perhaps there is more to this than I had thought.

Priorities.  How do we make them and how do we keep them? 

There is no set answer for which specific thing is a priority since they will change as our life situation changes, but the principles remain constant.  Jesus made it very clear throughout His ministry what His priorities were and how each of us should follow His example. He taught, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40). The first commandment addressed the vertical relationship between man and God. The second commandment addressed the horizontal relationship with other people. All of your priorities will fall into these two basic categories.

I did a quick search for Christian priorities and this is a summary of what I found:

1. Love the Lord through disciplined obedience in all matters of prayer, worship, and daily walk.
2. Respect your spouse, loving them above all others.
3. Cherish your children and spend time with them. Teach them to follow the Lord.
4. Service through the local church to include community outreach.
5. Employment so you are not a burden to others.
6. Friends to share life with and to help encourage each other in difficult times.

Let’s walk through them and see how I do:

1. Love the Lord.  OK, I’ve got that one down pretty well.  Oh, the rest of the line too?  Hum, “through disciplined obedience in all matters.”  OK, maybe I could use a little work on some things.

2. Respect and love your spouse. Ha!  I don’t have one so I don’t have to do that!  Wait, this means potential spouse too?  I need to think about my actions today because they will affect relationships that come in my future.

3. Cherish my children.  Since I do not have children I need to make sure the environment around me is inviting and supporting of other children in my family.  In some cases, I may be the only light of Christ they experience.

4. Service through my church.  I do support the local church through the Dallas Baptist Association and I also serve my church. Sometimes, volunteering or serving the church can be consuming of all my time.  Serving the church should not be a priority over your relationships with God or your family.  If we have a disciplined life we will also have a balanced life.

5. Employment.  I have a job, in fact, I work for myself!  This has allowed great flexibility in my schedule, but I sometimes abuse that freedom.  How we handle our business affairs reflects on our walk with the Lord.

6. To get a friend you must be a friend. Do I really love others as I love myself?  Am I willing to make others a priority?

Do you see a trend?  I see discipline and balance are the arching theme for all the priorities.  If I keep the first priority in it’s right place then the others seem to fall into their correct place.  A balanced life will result in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  If I see the fruit multiply then I know I am on the right track!

If and but will probably always be a challenge for me.  Hopefully, by recognizing the things I need to balance I can do better at setting the right priorities!

Devotional For Women Review

Devo for womenCompelling was the first word that came to mind when I wanted to describe The Devotional For Women edited by Rhonda Kelley and Dorothy Patterson.

Here are the basics about the book. It provides 366 devotionals written by forty women of various ages and backgrounds. The theological position is conservative evangelical with a strong complementarian view. Several of the devotionals are related to motherhood and marriage, but most have a general life application. A unique feature of the devotional is a place to write notes at the end of each day’s reading. The book is made of soft leatherflex binding and has the look and feel of a leather Bible. It was published in 2015.

“The Devotional for Women offers encouragement as well as biblical exposition, all in a user-friendly, quick-read format to change lives in the everyday rhythm of life.”

I was not sure what to expect when I opened the devotional. The editors are known to be extremely conservative in their views of women and the church. I must admit I do not always agree with them. That said; it is all the more impressive that I enjoyed reading these devotionals and would encourage others to do so as well.

So many women’s devotionals are based on a personal story with a Scripture attached at the end. What I found most appealing in The Devotional for Women was the use of Scripture to draw out the application. They leave no question as to who the authority is that is speaking in each day’s reading. It is the Word of God we should follow with an example from a woman’s experience.

I would highly recommend The Devotional for Women for anyone looking to develop a closer walk with God. It is appropriate for all ages though best for high school and older. It would make a perfect Christmas gift to give to the women in your life!

You can order The Devotional For Women from most Christian book sellers including B&H Publishing and LifeWay. LifeWay also offers an eReader version of the devotional.

Link to LifeWay Bookstore

Note: A complementary copy of the devotional was provided by the publisher in exchange for a review of the material.

Philippians by Dr. Sue Edwards

4399 philippians cvr full CC.inddDr. Sue Edwards has added a new publication to her Discover Together Bible Study Series and it does not disappoint. Philippians: Discovering Joy Through Relationships is an eight-lesson, inductive study highlighting Paul’s insights on how to build authentic connections. Topics of trust, humility, self-sacrifice and generosity are covered in a straightforward approach for both beginner and seasoned Bible student.

The study guide provides a series of questions to help lead you through the material. The sidebars contain information that will take you deeper with additional quotes, Scripture references, and historical information. To get the most from the study you are encouraged to go to the Discovering Together website where Dr. Edwards provides a brief teaching video for each lesson. The videos add a lot to the study, but are not required.

“It’s our relationship with God and with others that is the greatest source of joy in our lives, and Paul shows us what that looks like in his beautiful letter to the Philippians. My prayer is that this look into God’s heart will encourage many to elevate their relational connections in a busy world that often ignores the personal.”  – Dr. Sue Edwards

I have participated in a lot of Bible studies and this is one I would recommend you not miss. It can be completed as an individual, but I suggest using a small group format. The study is well suited for great discussions and personal growth and that will happen best in a small group.

This new study will be available online starting November 27 with the study guide available now through Kregel Publications. For more information or to order the study guide go to http://www.discovertogetherseries.com. 

Note: A complementary copy of the study was provided by the publisher.