This morning, my wife and I have arrived on the campus of the Christian college that our daughter will be attending as a freshman this fall. Of course, the excitement that we have for her and her future is off the charts!

The entire process of checking in, finding one’s dorm assignments, getting a mug shot for your ID card (my first card was a real picture laminated & pressed onto an ID card – yes, very ancient!), carrying one’s entire belongings into a dorm room, meeting new roommates, figuring out how you are going to share that small room with three other roommates and all of their stuff, and trying to process the myriad of other tidbits of information is exhilarating for an 18-year-old moving away from home for the first time.

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OpinionI stood there shaking my head. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Earlier this year, I was having a conversation with a pastor who was about five years my junior (approximately 38 years old). He was telling me that recently his parents (his dad is also a pastor) just up and told him that they didn’t like or agree with his wife’s choice of clothing.

Really? This still happens? Incredulous as it may seem and sad to say, but it happens more often than not. For some time, I have pondered this dynamic. The reason I use the word dynamic as a noun (i.e., a basic or dynamic force, especially one that motivates, affects development or stability) here is simple. These type of conversations or should I say “imperatives”  usually do not end well but they definitely affect the development and stability of relationships. Why does a well-intentioned Christian feel the need to tell other Christians (especially adult family members) how they should live, especially in preferential matters?

I have a confession to make – I’ve been that person in the past. And I’m continuing to purge this divisive, disruptive, even devilish spirit. The following are reasons I believe that Christians act this way:

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One year ago today, one of the world’s most beloved entertainers, Robin Williams, took his own life. Very few entertainers have cut across such a wide swath of age groups while entertaining the masses. From Aladdin to Peter Pan to Mrs. Doubtfire, Williams put his very own mark on every movie or act that he performed.

Several months ago, my wife and I had stopped at some yard sales in a small town near our home. While perusing a box of older VHS movies, I came across the movie Dead Poets Society. I had never watched the movie but remember hearing about it years ago. I purchased it for $1 and several weeks later watched the movie. Although we could debate some of the finer philosophies presented throughout the movie, one thing was undeniable. Williams was brilliant in playing his part as an English teacher encouraging his subjects to not just endure another English class but to seize life and live it for all its worth.

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Coach or cheerleader

It was a beautiful fall day. One of those days when you wished that it was twenty-five years earlier and you were the one suiting up for a thrilling soccer match. There is something about the cool, crisp air in the fall that just beckons any true soccer player to the pitch. Although I was not the one playing, I was equally excited to see my three boys playing on that fine afternoon.

As the game progressed, I stood on the sideline and listened to the coach. To be honest, I couldn’t tell if I was listening to a cheerleader or a coach. To be fair, he was trying to inspire nearly every player that got close to the ball. However, looking at the level of play on the team, it was apparent that there had been more inspiration dispensed than instruction over the course of the year to that point. Continuing to watch their level of play, I was convinced that there had been much more cheerleading than coaching. Certainly a coach should inspire his players. There are times when he needs to encourage them to play above their level. However, the primary responsibility of a coach is to instruct, to teach, to train.

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Stack of booksCharles William Eliot said, “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” Ah! Such wisdom in this quote.

Personally, this year of 2014 has been a new high for me when it comes to the reading of books. Not only have I read more than at any time of my life, the books I read were quite rewarding in a variety of ways. The longer I live, the more I believe that reading can shape a life unlike nearly anything else. Although I am one who enjoys a good movie, in my opinion, a good book will trump a good movie every time. It does concern me that more & more men that I meet read so little. It is through a Book that God communicated His truth to us. Often, no desire to read will lead to a struggle for a Christian to read the Word of God.

My wife and I constantly encourage and direct our children to learn to love reading. We do this in a multitude of ways: taking them to the library (we encourage them to find at least one book to check out every visit we make), purchasing good books for them as gifts throughout the year, raving about certain books my wife & I have read, and in general, making much of reading.

Like last year, I used Evernote to track/compile this list. In addition, I am constantly revising my current list of “books to read.” For something that I believe this important, why wouldn’t I want to be organized? One more note – two items that I read on a regular/constant basis are the Bible (daily) and WORLD magazine (a Christian biweekly news magazine). Enjoy the list and may 2015 be a rich year when it comes to reading for you!

Books That I Read in 2014

Top Five (in order)
1. The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan
2. Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell
3. Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Thom Rainer
4. The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller
5. Out of Commission, Paul Chappell
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preachingI started reading this book the third week of September 2014 – the same week I attended a “Preach the Word” conference in Baltimore, Maryland. That conference, along with this book, has really challenged me concerning the preaching of the Word of God!

Outstanding, solid read! If I was teaching a college-level class on the subject of preaching, this would definitely make the list of textbooks for the students to read, study, and dissect.

It does not take long for one to realize that the author has done his homework concerning this book. Of course, his preaching ministry over the past thirty years only adds to his vast knowledge and wisdom concerning this topic. I love the humility of this author as he teaches all of the facets of preaching.

The material is very applicable but I also find it quite inspiring. Going back through the book, I found I had underlined over one-hundred sixty sentences, thoughts, or illustrations. The book has four parts:

1. The Commission for Preaching
2. The Comprehension of Preaching
3. The Construction of Preaching
4. The Communication of Preaching
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TrainLast month, I set out for work on what I thought would be a typical Monday morning commute – long, but necessary. After 45-50 minutes of driving, I parked my car and made my way onto the loading platform at the train station. It seemed that the trains were delayed (not unusual during this railway construction phase here in Philly) but I didn’t think anything of it. Boarded the train and away we went. The train stopped after only a few minutes. A voice crackled over the intercom, “There will be a twenty-minute delay due to a medical emergency.” After a low murmur arose from the train’s irritated commuters, we all sat and waited.

After what seemed longer than the promised twenty-minute delay, the train started moving in the right direction. It’s about time, I thought to myself. After pulling in to the next stop, we were all met with unpleasant news. Due to the nature of the medical emergency ahead of us, they were shutting down the westbound track that crossed over the river into Philly. We were advised to get on a train heading eastbound. Eastbound? That is not in the direction of my destination. That is the opposite direction of the work, people, and meetings that were waiting for me.

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