“Max on Life” – the title of Max Lucado’s newest book, available in stores today. As one of my favorite authors, I was excited to read this particular book, as I thoroughly enjoy just about everything he has to say. This newest book is a collection of sorts – a handbook filled with the answers to just about anything you’d want to know. Broken down into seven categories (all beginning with the letter “H”) – Hope, Hurt, Help, Him/Her, Home, Haves/Have-Nots, and the Hereafter. Interestingly, while there is some content from many of his other books, we also find excerpts from sermons and letters from his years as a pastor.

Normally, I am very enthusiastic about recommending any book by Max, but this one finds me a bit lukewarm. Don’t get me wrong, I love his ability to illustrate a topic and make it easy to understand for just about anybody. And he doesn’t disappoint here in this book. The problem for me, is that while each answer is a great starting point in helping someone to gain a basic understanding of their question, I’m not sure very many of them could really stand alone, without the need for further discussion and explanation.

I completely understand that to expound on each of these questions at length would take volumes. And for the solid, committed, and growing follower of Jesus Christ, the answer would most certainly serve as a catalyst for personal investigation as they dive deeper into God’s Word. But unfortunately, the vast majority of the average chuch goer looks no further into discovery, and simply accepts the answer at face value. Unfortunately we end with a bunch of folk theologians – people who believe what they believe simply because that is what someone told them to do. And here in the pages of this new book, I am afraid that it provides a foundation that too many will assume is the finished structure.

If you enjoy Max Lucado, and desire a book that will provide great illustrations on a variety of topics, then, by all means, get this book. If you desire material that will provide you a starting point for further study, then buy the book. But, if you are going to use this book as your guide for life, then I suggest you forgo this purchase and put your money toward a solid study Bible that will provide a much more solid foundation.

You can purchase this book at any Christian bookstore, amazon.com, or cbd.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Contemporary…Traditional…Blended…Old…New…Their music…Our music…

I’ve never been a fan of all the labels we’ve managed to place on music in the church. In doing so, churches have often ended up isolating each other – dividing their people and distracting them from focusing on the goal to join God in His mission to restore a lost world to Himself.

There is no doubt that music can move us, and that we each have significant differences in what we personally enjoy listening to – differences in what moves us. And as a worship leader, trying to keep those differences in mind as you plan can quickly send you to the loony bin. Why? Because there is absolutely no way to satisfy everybody on any given Sunday, in any given worship service. It can’t be done. It doesn’t matter whether you are a contemporary church using only contemporary music, a traditional church using only traditional hymns, or a blended church using a mixture of both, personal preferences will always influence what someone likes and how they are moved. Trust me, there will always be someone (EVERY WEEK) who thinks the music was awful, and someone (EVERY WEEK) who absolutely loved the music (and they were likely sitting right next to each other).

And so for me, as I sit down to plan a worship service, my goal (first and foremost) is to seek God’s face in revealing exactly what songs should be used (no matter what the “style”). Each week, I MUST push personal preferences (my own included) to the bottom of my worship-planning agenda. I’ve been entrusted with a great privilege of helping God’s people engage in worship through music, and it is only through the Spirit’s leading of me in the planning and of His people in the service, that true, God-glorifying worship can take place. Anything else, and anything less, is just a self-glorifying jam session.

That being said, I do think we, as worship leaders, do God (and our people) an injustice when we isolate our planning to include ONLY one style of music. Not that there won’t be weeks where only one style is present, but that should be the exception, not the norm.

Those who use ONLY hymns, cheat themselves of engaging with a God who is still speaking to men & women today, just as He spoke to Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, King David, and so many more, so many years ago. On the other end, those who choose to limit themselves to ONLY contemporary songs (or even ONLY contemporary arrangements of hymns) cheat themselves from the opportunity of joining the “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us – men & women who share with us the same truths about the same unchanging-God. The message through music that God has given us today is a continuation of, not a replacement for, the same message He has been communicating through songs for centuries. When we allow ourselves to include the full range of God-glorifying music (traditional, contemporary, or whatever you may call it), I truly believe that we will experience worship as it was meant to be.

The video below (the impetus for my blog today) contains interviews with Stuart Townend, Vicky Beeching, Tim Neufeld (Starfield) and Noel Richards (some of today’s contemporary song writers) regarding the use of hymns in contemporary worship.

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“When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.” (Acts 13:36 NIV)

As I re-read that verse in the opening pages of Mark Batterson’s new book, Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny, I was reminded why that verse, in recent days, has become my mantra – my personal prayer & motivation as I seek to become the man God has designed me to be.  Mark writes, “You possess a uniqueness that is soul deep. I call it your soulprint. It’s not just who you are, present tense. It’s who you are destined to become, future tense. It’s not just who others see when they look at you from the outside in. It’s who God has destined you to become from the inside out.” And in the life of King David, despite his weaknesses and mistakes, he was able to embrace God’s unique destiny for his life, and he died having fulfilled that purpose. That is the prayer I have for my own life, that I, too, will fulfill God’s purposes for me in my own generation. Not my own purposes, but HIS purposes.

Soulprint is a great book, and if you are serious about becoming the man or woman God has uniquely designed you to be, then this book is a must-read. In Batterson’s usual, easy-to-read and comprehend style, he walks the reader through each step of this exciting  journey of discovery, utilizing King David’s life as the backdrop. We learn the importance of walking in holy confidence of God’s ability to move mightily through us, and the importance of remembering the life symbols that mark each turn in the journey. (For David, one of those “symbols” was the fact that he took Goliath’s armor and kept it in his tent. I hadn’t realized that before. Can you imagine what he thought about every time he looked at that armor?)

Batterson also reminds us that David’s experiences and memories weren’t all that carried him through to fulfill his purpose – his character played an important role as well. Mark writes that “the goal is not accomplishing the dream God has given to you. The dream is secondary. The primary issue is who you become in the process.” David’s humility and his uninhibited love for God, formed a character in him that each of us should long to emulate. Even as Saul pursued him vigorously, David recognized that compromising his integrity was not an option – even if he was “justified” in the eyes of his men. And when God finally elevated David to his position as King, David was not afraid to worship him without abandon, even if it meant looking like of fool in the eyes of family and friends.

Part of what holds us back from discovering and embracing God’s destiny for our lives is NOT that we have forgotten how God has moved in our lives, but that we have allowed ourselves to cut corners in our character development, or we’ve allowed our fear of “what people will think” to impact our public (and even our private) worship of the God who is guiding and directing our every step.  Are we satisfied living a mediocre life that is headed toward a mediocre finish, or is it time to finally, once-and-for-all, discover and embrace our God-ordained destiny. I choose the latter.

If you’d like to read the first chapter of this book or purchase a copy of Soulprint for yourself, you can find it at Amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or any Christian Bookstore. You won’t be disappointed. (FTC disclaimer – “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”)

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