I had a seminary professor who said once, "Study the whole Bible, but choose one book that is 'your book.'  When you choose that book, study it, take it apart regularly, put it back together and then take it apart again.  It doesn't matter if it's Old or New Testament, just choose a book that you will focus on."  For me, that book is Proverbs.

My book, A Daily Dose of Proverbs, was the result of doing what my professor suggested. Since there are 31 days in most months and 31 chapters in Proverbs, it is possible to read a chapter a day -- the fifth chapter on day five, the seventh on day seven and so forth -- and read all of Proverbs every month.   In my book, I chose one verse for every day of the year from the chapter for the day and wrote a one-page devotional.  It is my best-selling book and I regularly get great feedback from readers, some of whom have read it daily for several years.

What book of the Bible is "your book?"  Which one do you read, study and then begin to read all over again?  If you don't have one, this would be a good time to choose.  If you do, are you still reading and studying it?  Chances are you won't ever be a Bible scholar, but you could be a scholar where that one book is concerned.  Why not try focusing on the one and see if it doesn't make you better equipped to understand the whole--where the Bible is concerned that is. 

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Acts 17:28

I have been thinking about Acts 17:28 for the last few weeks.  That verse states, "For in him we live and move and have our being." I have been mindful lately that I am totally dependent on God, sort of like a fish in water.  I doubt if a fish has to think (if a fish could even think) about being in the water.  I would suppose that a fish could even take being in the water for granted.  But have you ever seen a fish out of water?  They thrash about, their gills desperately seeking the water from which they derive their existence.  If they can't get back into the water, after a while they just die.  That is how I am in relationship to the Lord.  But sometimes I can forget that truth.

When I was in Kenya recently on safari, we stopped for breakfast by a river filled with crocodiles and hippos  While watching them, I stepped too close to the edge of the cliff and my leg dropped down and was badly scratched and scraped.  It caused me to think, "I could have fallen off that cliff at that point. It could have all been over just that quickly."  The only thing that kept me intact at that moment was God, nothing less and certainly nothing more. 

The verse says that we live, move and have our being.  There can be no better expression of our total dependence on God.  I think the psalmist understood this dependence as well when he wrote, "My times are in your hands" (Psalm 31:15). 

A wise man once wrote, "The holy blessed God never does evil to any man.  He only withdraws his gracious presence from him, and then he necessarily perishes."  So what should your and my response be to this truth?

First, we should be thankful.  Second, we should fight arrogance and pride, which clings to us as part of our sinful human condition:  "For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world" (1 John 2:16-17).  Finally, we should be ever mindful of His protection and provision, which should cause us to fear doing anything that would jeopardize His care. 

Take the time to add your own comments and insights about this verse by clicking on this site and adding your thoughts at the end of the post where it says "comments."  I would really like to start a running dialog about this and other verses from time to time.  But for now, I am not in a hurry to move from my meditations on this verse. 

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Natural Church Development

A few years ago I became certified to use a program called Natural Church Development (NCD).  I was attracted to this program because it provides a church some practical insight into how it is doing--specifically how healthy it is in eight key areas that are essential to church growth.

According to NCD, these eight areas include: 1)  Empowering leadership; 2) Gift-oriented ministry; 3) Passionate spirituality; 4) Functional structures; 5) Inspiring worship services; 6) Holistic small groups; 7) Need-oriented evangelism; and 8) Loving relationships.

The program gives any church a score in each of these eight areas after 30 people complete an anonymous, 90-question survey.  The pastor also has a survey to complete.  The scores are generated when I enter the results into the NCD software, which in turn produces a report that gives the church an idea of how they are doing in each of the key areas. NCD recommends that each church identify its minimum factor--the area of the eight with the lowest score--and then to develop a strategy that will address that particular area only. 

I got involved with this program for two reasons.  First, it gave a church something to work with, since it is so difficult to measure effectiveness when working with people and spiritual things.  I also liked that it gave the church something specific to work and focus on after the survey was completed.  (If you would like information on using this survey at your church, feel free to email me.)

I am off to a local church this morning to do the survey and will deliver the report to the pastor in a few days. The church may or may not employ me as a coach to help them address their weaknesses after that, but that isn't really necessary--another aspect that attracted me to the program.  Jesus knows how to build His church and, if we will just be courageous and face the realities of where we are, He will meet us more than half way to help us grow and develop.

What means do you have to measure your effectiveness, whether personally or in the business or ministry in which you are engaged?  Just because it's hard to do doesn't mean that you are exempt from trying.  Find something, some metric, that can give you an indication of how you're doing and then take steps to improve and do a better job.  It doesn't have to be involved and expensive; you just have to muster the courage to do it.

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"Poor Karen!"

Last night I was listening to the radio when a song by Karen Carpenter came on the air.  Every time I hear her sing, my wife knows that I will always say, "Poor Karen!"  Here's why.

Karen and her brother, Richard, were at the top of the music world in 70's and early 80's  They wrote and recorded hit song after hit song and today have total sales of 100 million units.  They were known the world over and had everything--fame, fortune and a following.

But what we didn't know was that Karen had an eating disorder.  This eating disorder cost Karen her life--she died in 1983.  Yet her music and her voice live on, played by every easy listening and soft rock station in the world. 

Karen had it all, but really she had nothing at all.  She died without husband or children.  She died a tortured woman, unable to deal with her fame and wealth.  When I think of her, I can't help think of Jesus' words:  "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Luke 9:25).  I don't know where Karen is spending eternity.  All I know is that the eulogy on my lips every time I hear her sing is "Poor Karen!"

I am a creative person and I want my creativity to be known as far and wide as possible.  Yet I want it all to be anchored in the Lord.  No, make that I desperately need it to be anchored in Him.  In trying to find myself, I don't want to lose myself. 

What is your motivation for creativity and success?  And are you ready to handle the success that will come from following God's will for your life?  I don't want anyone hearing or reading me one day and saying, "Poor John!"  I want them to say, "There was a man who knew his purpose and did what God wanted him to do."  I hope you want the same thing for your life.

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I Am Not A Heretic

There was a lot of noise in the press the last few weeks about a long lost gospel of Judas.  This gospel allegedly portrayed Judas as an accomplice and not betrayer of Jesus. According to this "gospel," Jesus asked Judas to betray Him and then directed Judas not to tell the other apostles.  If you would like to read about it, you can do so here

I was asked this question last week by an earnest man: "Can't someone hold an alternate view of Judas without affecting his view of Jesus?"  Of course my answer was a unequivocal, "No!"

If Jesus participated in such a devious plot and kept it from the other apostles, then we would have to ask ourselves, "What else did Jesus do that may not be what it appears to have been?"  That would throw the reliability of all the gospels into question, including the claims that Jesus made about Himself.  Quite simply, that just isn't possible.

The early church rejected the Judas gospel as heresy.  The modern church needs to do the same.  The fathers of the early church set what is called the canon of Scripture. That is, they identified, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, all the books that were inspired and authorized by the Holy Spirit--the Judas gospel wasn't one then and it never will be.

By the way, I found an online survey to help determine how closely one subscribes to the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD).  This Council repudiated numerous heresies concerning who Jesus was.  I am glad to report that I am not a heretic.  Below are my results.  If you would like to take this survey for yourself, click here

You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























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