Small Group Success: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

11961The Good: Small groups are essential for fulfilling the 60+ Biblical commands for believers to “build up one another.” Sometimes though, small groups do a better job at being a source for frustration and division within the church. Bradley Wright, the author, gives practical, biblical help for organizing and leading small groups, while keeping your church in one piece – and growing as a result.

The Bad: I’m an ADD story lover, who can learn to rebuild an engine on YouTube but can’t figure out how to change windshield wipers with the instructions that come in the package. Bradley has a treasure chest of small group experience. This means his instructions are spot on – but it can read like an instruction manual. I need YouTube. Here is an example.

On page 61 Bradley writes, “Effective small group leaders prepare for their role prior to the first meeting. Great small group leaders are always preparing for their role…” Then he explains how to prepare – through prayer, following another leader, etc. I was hoping the next paragraph would state, “The last time I wasn’t prepared we started talking politics, a fight broke out, the police had to be called, three people went to the hospital, (only two died) and the church split.” I suppose a good example of preparation would have been cool too. In short, the book tells, rather than shows.

The Ugly: As a pastor, I’ve struggled to find a good book on small groups – at least one that is current being printed. I think this may be the best out right now – as the content is sharp, even if you have to dig a bit. I heard rumor Brad is editing and updating the current edition. I hope he will put in some stories and pictures for me. Then this easily goes from 4 stars to 5!


Do Women Write Better than Men?

Say it isn’t so.

It’s so.

Grammarly is a great little grammar checker website. It’s made for English-challenged writers like myself. They did the research. I used to like Grammarly. The facts then.

They did a survey of about 3000 people. 54% were men. 59% of those surveyed thought women were better writers. The men should have lied.

Men were seen as better at getting to the point. Women were seen as better at developing characters. Men were better at writing simple sentences. Woman were seen as better at writing longer sentences. I don’t understand.

Lousy, short, simple writing aside – do you agree? Maybe that’s why some writing teams of Mother/Son, couples, Father/daughter work out so well?

BTW – Grammarly found eight writing issues in the above text, but I’ll show them. I’m posting it unfixed.


Best Verse in the Bible

life-verse-thumbnail-200x200I’ve never been one of those people who had a “life verse.” There are 31,102 verses in the Bible. Do you really think God has just one for you to live your life by? I never thought so.

Until now.

Something special happened when I read this verse. It jumped off the page and into my soul. Maybe you like John 3:16 because of what it teaches about the Gospel, or Ephesians 2:8-9 because of it’s clear explanation of Salvation. But this verse – this verse is special. It may be the best verse in the Bible.

Daniel 5:12

 “This man Daniel. . .  has exceptional ability and is filled with divine knowledge and understanding. He can interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel.” Daniel 5:12 (NLT)

Maybe there is something to this “life verse” idea after all.


Dead Heat: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

dead heatThe Good – Author Joel Rosenberg knows how to write! As always when reading one of Joel’s books, I get upset at every text message, phone call – even loving interruptions. His books aren’t good on my marriage. Joel does introduce people to the gospel here and there, but it isn’t preachy. Well done!

The Bad – Somewhere in the middle of the book, a van driver dies. The guy on the passenger’s side of a van can’t hit the brakes due to stuck seat belt, so has to pull the e-break instead, locking up the front brakes, and causing a major wreck with cars flipping, fires, carnage, and other exciting stuff. This is bad on SO MANY levels. The e-break would be next to the driver’s door, further away than the foot-break on a fan. An e-break also only works on the rear brakes – not the front. I enjoy the way Rosenberg normally does his research – from politics to history to abortion rates and porn sales to knowing you can conceal a Glock 26, but you had best be careful, as it doesn’t have a safety. What he needs is a driver on his editing staff. Hey Joel, if you’re looking…

The Ugly – Lots die. People die – and I assume dogs, horses, and guinea pigs. It’s all highly sanitized, and the good news is cats die too. No spoiler here – it is set in the end times after all. However, about half way through I was wondering if there would be anyone left alive for another book. Thankfully, Joel spared a few.

I highly recommend reading the book. Just rip out the van page.

shrimp with 12 retina – evolution or design?

God – the shrimp. A great article. Have we gone from gods of wood and stone to scale and bone?

God in this life and the next

deep sea shrimp with 12 retina deep sea shrimp with 12 retina

This is part of a continuing series to show the amazing things that God has created.  It also hopefully serves as an educational tool to show just how impossible random chance evolution really is.

In the deep sea, where light is dim and blue, animals with bigger eyes see better—but bigger eyes are more conspicuous to predators. In response, the small (10 mm to 17 mm), transparent crustacean Paraphronima gracilis has evolved a unique eye structure.

And there’s the question – evolved – or designed?

View original post 1,701 more words

Reacher Killing Floor: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

reacherI just started reading the Jack Reacher series – by Lee Child. I found this difficult, as Tom Cruise plays Reacher in the movies.

I hate Tom Cruise.

It’s not like we use to be best buddies, Tom and I. It’s ever since I watched Top Gun, and his character was such an arrogant… All I needed to love that movie would have been for some Russian to blow him out of the air. No such luck. I’ve hated him ever since.

But I read the book anyway. Here we go:

The Good: There is an awesome new introduction by the author in the book I got – the book has a great story line, lots of fun to read, not too steamy. Too much steam, I reach for another book. I’m married. I don’t need to read about what make-believe people are doing between the sheets. I love the way Lee Child has Reacher fix things as he goes, instead of doing stupid things throughout to increase the tension. There were plenty of other characters to do stupid things.

The Bad: Nothing really bad here, except that I wanted a bit more for a favorite line. Here it is: “But that phrase has a very precise meaning. A lot of those stock sayings do. Like when people say they slept like a baby. Do they mean they slept well? or do that mean they woke up every ten minutes, screaming?”

The Ugly: Did I mention that Tom Cruise plays Reacher in the movie series?

front cover-001

Bizarre Bible Stories 2! Now available in your local bookstore, Amazon, and I hope lots of other places.


front coverI need your help to keep my family together. If you have read Bizarre Bible Stories 2!, would you post a review on Amazon? It makes a HUGE difference.

The first Bizarre Bible Stories was marketed by Baker Books, got reviews from kids and adults – then was recommended by The Dallas Morning News, was used by churches for VBS, went to a second printing to sell in Wall-mart, and maybe doubled the population of Heaven.

Bizarre Bible Stories 2! is … quiet. Three reviews on Amazon. This publisher can’t afford marketing and I would hate to sell any more kids to pay for it. If you have read Bizarre 2!, would you Click here and write a review – even just a sentence? It makes a huge difference, and I can keep all my kids.

JoLynn thanks you in advance.

If I set God first, my world will be blessed.

happy-faceI despise the “become a Christian and the rest of your life will be happy” theology. I remember the kids songs we sang in church. “Down in the dumps I’ll never go.”  And, “I’m so happy, so very happy…” It was lousy health and wealth theology before Benny Hinn was cool.

And now I’m saying, “If I set God first, my world will be blessed.”

I got that theology from reading Daniel for our current Sunday sermon series. Daniel put God first – in his diet no less – in Daniel 1, and his world was blessed. But it wasn’t always happy. Or easy. Or down in the dumpless.

As a result of putting God first in his life, Daniel became leader of the Magi, later became Governor of Babylon, and finally one of the most powerful people in the world. Everywhere Daniel went, his world was blessed. Even Babylon, called by some the “City of Satan,” was blessed through Daniel and the decisions he made as he put God first.

But Daniel and his friends were betrayed, fed to lions, and thrown in a furnace. They probably weren’t singing, “I’m so happy, so very happy…” No, those were “down in the dumps” days, even for Daniel. But, if we will put God first, even the worst days can result in blessing our world.

I still despise the “become a Christian and the rest of your life will be happy” theology. But, if we will set God first in our lives, putting His will before all else, God will bless our world through our very actions. Maybe the hope for America isn’t in the next election. Maybe the hope for America is people like you and me putting God first in our lives.

Furious Enough to Kill

obit_thumbnail.htmlA good friend of mine, Chad Barrett, lost his daughter to cancer last year. He has been expressing his pain, and the grace God keeps pouring out to endure it, on social media. I’ve been learning and praying with each post. However the last one had a new twist that I thought needed to be shared. Here it is.

(continued last time)
There is something I am angry at…
Enough to kill…

Those last few hours of Kristina’s life–I have images that are engraved in my mind. They shred my heart. Even hard to write about.

Her body was shutting down. We had to bathe her, clean the bed, and redress her and the bed. We did all this without moving her off the bed. I don’t know how we did it.

Those images.

Four hours later, I felt with my right hand her last heartbeat. Her final breath.

I had these images in my mind that troubled me greatly. I couldn’t process them, until I talked with my Dad.

And this is what I’m angry at…

Kristina didn’t commit a certain sin that caused her cancer. Neither did I or her Mom. Kristina got cancer because we live in this screwed up System of Evil. This System of Sin–the whole earth is cursed with it. (Romans 8:20)

It brings only death. (1 Corinthians 15:21)

This System of Sin murdered my daughter.

Sin kills. So here’s the clincher…

Why would I want to participate in something that murdered my daughter? This has caused me to hate my sin. I realize it wasn’t my sin that caused her cancer, but I don’t want to take part in something that produced the death of my loved one.

I don’t wanna hang out with what killed Kristina. I don’t wanna entertain it or be entertained by it. Don’t wanna be friends with it.

I’m furious at it, and yet it still lures me.

I HATE it, but at times I’m still tempted.

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:24-25

Sin kills.

Jesus is life. Real life. Freedom from this System of Evil. Where peace abounds and grace overwhelms. (1 John 5:12)

I can walk in darkness (I have that potential.), but there’s nothing but misery.

I can walk in the light, and ‪#‎ThriveNotJustSurvive‬. (1 John 1:6-7)

P.S. I still have those images. Painful reminders. I’ll never forget.

Chad Barrett's photo.
Bizarre Bible Stories 2! is dedicated to Kristina. I’ve included it before, but it’s my favorite part of the book, and it’s my blog. So, here again is a copy of that dedication:
To Kristina Rae Barrett
Thank you, Kristina, for writing the question for chapter one a few years ago. You wrote, “Dear God, Why did you give me cancer?”Kristina, I’ve known your dad since he was in my youth group back in ’85. You inherited his spunk, love of life, and incomprehensibly deep faith. Actually, I think you passed us all up, telling your dad at one point, “If this is God’s plan for me, then I accept it.”Hebrews 11-12 teaches us that those who have died in the faith go on cheering for us as we live out our lives of faith. If they can watch us, maybe God also lets them read what we write.

Kristina, I hope you enjoy Chapter 1.

Kristina Rae Barrett, May 30, 2002 – June 21, 2014.

This book is dedicated to you.

Enslavement: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

EnslavementThe Good: The book. It’s just flat good. I was surprised – shocked maybe. Melinda is a first time author, published by the small Rebelight Publishing. I should have known better. Any publisher with the motto – crack the spine: blow your mind has to put out good stuff. Enslavement stuck in my head – if I took a break from reading my mind stayed in the book. What I needed was a port-a-potty and an IV so I wouldn’t have to move. A great read.

The Bad: Probably my favorite series right now is the Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd. As soon as I’m done with one, I can’t wait to pick up the next. There are like a zillion in the series, and I’m good with that. Here is the rub; Enslavement is the first book of the One Bright Future series. But. . . there is no book two yet. Melinda, get out of bed, let some violent video game raise your kids, quit any other job, give your husband the remote and write. Thanks.

The Ugly: Here is the ugly truth. With a small publisher limiting marketing, and everyone and their dog flooding the market with self-published books, Enslavement could get lost in the avalanche of new books. That would be a shame. Give it a read and recommend it if you liked it as I did. I’ve already ordered the potty and IV for book 2. Click on the cover photo if you want to go to Amazon to order.

front cover-001

Bizarre Bible Stories 2! Now available in your local bookstore, Amazon, and I hope lots of other places.