Podcasts I’m Listening To Right Now

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If you ask anyone in my life currently, they’ll confirm that in about 99% of my conversations I’ll begin a phrase with “I was just listening to a podcast…” and begin droning on about my latest inspiration or exciting finding from another fantastic podcast. Below are some of my favorites right now, in no particular order

The Tim Ferriss Show

Besides having an awesome name (and a book called The Four Hour Workweek), Tim has a knack for revealing the tips, tricks, and tactics used by some of the worlds highest performers. I don’t necessarily agree with everything Tim or his guests say or endorse, but the show has exposed me to a wide range of people and the way they live their lives at a tactical level. If you’re looking for a podcast to help your brain grow larger, this is it. A few favorites are Jocko WillinkArnold SchwarzeneggerWim HofTony RobbinsStanley McChrystal, and Jamie Foxx.

The Moment with Brian Koppleman

Brian Koppleman, best known as the writer of movies like Rounders and Ocean’s Thirteen is an absolutely incredible interviewer. Like Tim Ferriss he is interviewing some incredible people, but his ability to really tap into the stories and moments that shape their lives is worth listening to. A few recommendations would be Jesse Itzler, Seth Godin, and Jon Acuff.

Reply All

Simply put, this is a show about the internet. Pretty much anything Gimlet Media is putting out these days is worth listening to, but I’m drawn in particular to Reply All for it’s knack of pulling beautiful stories from cold technology. A few favorites are ZarduluBlind Spot, or The Man in the FBI Hat.

StartUp Podcast

Another one from Gimlet Media, but the show has followed startups and told their stories for three seasons now. I just generally recommend the entire show.

Honorable Mentions

A few other podcasts I’ve been enjoying recently have been Song Exploder, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, FiveThirtyEight Elections Podcast, and the BarbellShrugged Podcast.

Business as Ministry

“I have always thought it was a shame that more people don’t go into “giving” professions. In fact, I have occasionally felt pangs of guilt that I didn’t choose a career that was completely focused on serving others. I have deep admiration for dedicated and hard-working clergy, social workers, or missionaries, and I wonder why I haven’t abandoned my career and moved into one of those kinds of jobs.

While I have not completely abandoned the idea of one day doing that, I have come to the realization that all managers can—and really should—view their work as a ministry. A service to others.

By helping people find fulfillment in their work, and helping them succeed in whatever they’re doing, a manager can have a profound impact on the emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual health of workers and their families. They can also create an environment where employees do the same for their peers, giving them a sort of ministry of their own. All of which is nothing short of a gift from God.

And so I suppose that the real shame is not that more people aren’t working in positions of service to others, but that so many managers haven’t yet realized that they already are.”

Patrick Lencioni 

How I’m Using Evernote In 2016

gts-3d-laptop1Since around 2008 or 2009 I’ve been using an incredible tool called Evernote. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this tool has been a central part of my life since then. What’s particularly amazing about this is that the tool is absolutely free. 

Last year I wrote a blog post when I ran across a fabulous blog post from Michael Hyatt. Hyatt is the author of The New York Times bestseller, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. He is also the founder of Platform University and the massively popular course, “5 Days to Your Best Year Ever.”

His blog post was simple: “How Evernote Can Help You Achieve Your Goals in 2015.” He gives four really simple steps that I’ve taken and applied this very week.

Step 1: Type all your goals into one summary note.

  • Enter “00. 2015 Goals” as the title of the Evernote note. The double zeros will make sense in a moment.
  • Tag this note with two tags: “2015” and “goals.”
  • Now type one goal per line. Whatever the goal, make sure it’s smarter.
  • Rearrange the goals into an order that makes sense for you. I put my personal goals first, followed by my professional ones.
  • Number each goal. I use leading zeros for single digit numbers (e.g., 01, 02, etc.), so the detail notes will sort correctly if I have more than nine (more about that in a moment).
  • Insert a checkbox before each goal (⇧⌘T on Evernote for Mac or Ctrl-Shift-C on Evernote for Windows).

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Step 2: Create a separate detail note for goal.

  • Enter the actual goal as the title of your Evernote note. Include the number.
  • Sort the Goal Detail Notes in numerical order by selecting View > Sort by: Title (This is why you included the number in the note title field.).
  • Tag each of these notes (goals) with two tags: “2015” and “goals.”
  • Set a Reminder for either the start date or (more likely) the deadline. This depends on whether the goal is a habit (start date) or a target (end date).
  • Now insert the following sections: Key Motivations, Next Actions, Progress Reports, and Random Notes.

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Step 3: Go read the full blog post

Okay, that’s not exactly what the third step is, but in order for you to download Michael’s amazing Evernote goals template and learn the final steps, you’ll need to read it by clicking here.

Here are a few of my own goals for 2016: 

  1. I’ve set a weight and fitness goal and am being consistently at my Crossfit box at least 3 times a week
  2. I have a career goal with Chick-fil-A I’m trying to accomplish this year
  3. I’m slowly making my way towards waking up super early by July 31. 5am seems a long way off, but I’m going to get there
  4. I’m participating in the 5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan. It’s been great.
  5. I have a book list with the theme of “Book’s that Have Changed Other People’s  Life” that includes titles like Ghettoside by Jill Leovy and H3 Leadership by Brad Lominick.
  6. I have committed to taking two weeks of vacation over the course of the year and full unplugging during those times.

What do you have planned for 2016?

 

You Are Not Your Depression

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Cowering in the dark. Lying in the bed unable to get up. Desperate thoughts. Tears.

Just saying the word depression can feel like we’ve been thrown into a cold, damp, dark room with little hope of escaping.

That word might as well be described as dead weight walking. I’ve been there, I promise you. I remember occasion after occasion, particularly during some dark days in college, where I sat in total fear and despair alone in my dorm room. Unable to leave. Unable to speak. My mind was spinning as fast as my heart was dropping. There was a weight so heavy on me that I could barely breathe.

I was another of the 25 percent of the population who wrestled in the darkness.

Read the rest at LookoutMag.com. 

A Challenge to Young Leaders

A phenomenal word from Eric Geiger:

Earlier this week I pointed out that there are fewer leaders who meet the typical “leadership profile” for positions such as senior pastor. From a practical and purely demographic vantage point, there are fewer people in Generation X than the preceding Boomer generation, so there are currently less available leaders in the often sought-after 35-50 age range than there were 15 years ago.

Now is a great time for younger leaders to be cultivated and tapped for significant leadership positions. And some churches and organizations are handing the leadership reigns to younger leaders. As this happens, younger leaders are wise to heed the challenge the apostle Paul gave to the man he discipled—Timothy.

Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). 

Read the rest of his challenge here.

Books that Changed My Life

It remains amazing that the simple pages of our books instantly grant us access to a whole new world. It’s earth-shaking how the combination of paper, ink, and imagination come together to form something that’s simply difficult to describe. The experiences found in many books are so deep, it often does feel as if we’re transferred into different lands.

But I think books are even more than just pathways into imaginary worlds. Some books open for us a look into a truer world.

Often I find myself consumed in some way by the shadows of this world we live in. Other days my heart or mind is clouded by what the world would have me believe. Books have taken me to the truest of places and brought my heart back to the true Word.

Of course, the greatest of all books is the Word. Without it, I would be lost. Besides the Bible, I’ve found a number of books in the course of my life thus far that have righted my path, increased the depth of my love for Christ, and pulled back the curtain to let me see the truth once again. Here are just a few of those books.

Read the latest from Lookout Magazine. 

My Sin of Racial Superiority: Reflections on Racial Reconciliation & The ERLC Summit

As I prepared to attend the ERLC Summit on Racial Reconciliation and the Gospel, I had little idea what to expect. In light of the events in Ferguson, New York City, and beyond, I’ve been unable to speak. Instead, I’ve attempted to listen.

I watched the live video from Ferguson and was confused and unclear about what I thought. All I knew truly was that another young black man was tragically dead. As I watched the reactions from my African American brothers and sisters, I realized we weren’t speaking the same language or feeling the same way about this event. And so I listened.

In Nashville, I prepared to do the same, and now I think I’m ready to express just a few of the thoughts I’ve had by talking about a few things I’ve learned, particularly from the incredible speakers at the ERLC Summit.

Christians Should Not Be Colorblind
For my whole life I truly sought to be “colorblind.” Racism, to me, was dead. It was something from a bygone era that had been dealt with. I was so convicted this week as I realized that the idea of being “colorblind” was not the message of the Kingdom of God. Instead, the Kingdom of God is a Kingdom made up of all nations, tribes, and tongues worshipping the same God and all saved by the same grace of Jesus.

Although we’re all equally sinners, our ethnicity is a part of who we are, and isn’t something to look past. Of course it’s not the central thing in our lives as Christians — the Gospel is — but the reality of being red, yellow, black or white does not disappear. Revelation 7 is clear as it proclaims that in the Kingdom of God there will be “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes.”

Christians Should Listen More
I’ve had some unique insight into the events of Ferguson and New York City that has made the tumultuous events difficult to decipher. My own Dad has served as a police officer for years. From the beginning, I had the privilege to hear from his perspective on the issues. It didn’t make things easier, especially knowing how he and other officers are giving their lives to serve and protect, not to take lives unjustly.

Initially I came at the recent events in our nation’s history with only one perspective. At the Summit, Dr. Moore’s words rang true:

“Even when we understand that there is a problem, those of us who are white, born again Christians, tend to assume the body of Christ is white with room for everybody else.” Dr. Russell Moore

“Even when we understand that there is a problem, those of us who are white, born again Christians, tend to assume the body of Christ is white with room for everybody else.”

That has been me for too long. It’s not that I have purposely sought out to think this way, but I realized it’s just the way I’ve been and it’s not right. And so I’ve learned to listen. To see that there is more to this story, and that my crooked heart is as crooked as ever. My inability to listen had formed in me the subtle sin of racial superiority.

And so I must admit today that there are grave injustices against my brothers and sisters in Christ that I just don’t experience and somehow believed didn’t exist. When Trip Lee talked about being followed around in Walgreens, and others at the conference spoke of the need to have “the talk” with their young black sons I was blindsided. I had no idea about this reality.

Trip Lee said, “If we are going to love one another we have to know one another.” The only way we can know one another is to speak with one another and listen to one another. And that speaking and listening has to happen beyond the four walls of the church building.  It has to happen at the dinner table as we break bread with one another.

Brothers and sisters, please forgive me for my sin of racial superiority. I am sorry that instead of listening, I based things solely on my personal reality. That changes today.

There is More That Unites Us Than Separates Us

The Gospel was the theme at the leadership summit, and I was so glad. Even as I found the Lord convicting my heart, the reality of the Gospel of Jesus was preached again and again and again. John Perkins, in one of the most moving and powerful moments at the conference, told the audience: “I think that we are putting reconciliation where it belongs, which is in the Gospel itself.” I couldn’t agree more. Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility — we who were once separated from God are now called Sons of God.

“Racial reconciliation flows necessarily from the saving work of the cross,” said Thabiti Anyabwile. “Racial reconciliation rests upon this basis: you have never seen a mere mortal.”

Those around us are more than just mortals that we will never see again. Because of the Gospel, the saving work of Christ, we will all one day be united as one in heaven. For now, we are to live as examples to the world of the power of that gospel. What message does it send that the most segregated time in America is Sunday morning?

It’s telling us that we’ve placed our focus on the things that separate us. Yet the reality is that the reconciliation that has happened between us and God must necessarily affect how we are reconciled to each other.

“Racism and racial superiority is an affront to God because it strikes at the very heart of the gospel,” said Afshin Ziafat. He’s right. “The greatest divide isn’t even a racial divide, it’s a divide between holy God and sinful man,” he said.

The Gospel Calls Us to Love Those Who Expect Hate

Both Afshin Ziafat and John Perkins delivered some of the difficult messages of the week. Speaking about his past as a muslim, Afshin reminded us all that their expectation is that we should hate them.

“The Gospel calls me to step out of my comfort zone to go out to people who don’t look like me, especially those who are my enemies, who I am expected to hate,” he said.

John M. Perkins, who in 1970 was arrested and tortured by white police officers, spoke about how in those horrific moments of laying in his own blood he realized his response was anything but love. Yet that was the very thing God was calling him to do. “I began to see that my reaction was more deadly than their action,” he admitted.

“I want to preach a gospel that is stronger than my black interest,” he told us. “I want to preach a gospel that will burn through these racial barriers.”

I couldn’t agree more — I want to preach a gospel that’s not calling for all of us to be like each other. I want to preach a gospel that is calling for all of us to be like Christ.

There is a lot of work yet to be done. A lot of prayer, a lot of talking, and a whole lot of listening. Although tragic and difficult, I’m thankful that God has used the recent events in our nation’s history to give us a chance to talk openly and freely about reconciliation.

Our history as Southern Baptists is one where men and women who loved God’s word got something so big and so clear absolutely wrong. My prayer is that I’ll be humble enough to listen and see and hear the Truth — and that it will lead to the kind of gospel reconciliation our world needs.

What Does Life Even Mean: My Brief Thoughts on Boyhood

It’s funny, but after watching the movie Boyhood, I’ve found myself unable to shake how much it’s made me think. Obviously the undertaking is incredible and groundbreaking (filming the same cast over the course of 12 years).
The movie was able to show at the same time the incredible “ordinary”-ness of life, and at the same time the incredible complexities that sin brings into our lives. I was heartbroken as I saw families disintegrate, fathers distance themselves, and kids get abused. As Russell Moore put it so well:
I wept as I saw short-sighted, impatient adults who just couldn’t have mercy on this hurting, awkward kid. I wept as I considered all the time when, in the whirl and bustle of our lives, I am diligent to maintain discipline and order (as is absent in this family often), but I am too often a failure at showing mercy and just letting some things go. I could feel myself saying, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.”Russell Moore

More than anything, I was personally struck by the ongoing motif of pictures and images. Throughout the movie, in both clear and subtle ways, the moviemakers seemed to be arguing that the meaning of life is simply a collection of snapshots. The boy we follow, Mason, has a deep love for photography. In a more subtle way, the viewer is presented with snapshot after snapshot of Mason’s life with very little transition. In just a moment, he grows and changes.

As I watched, I couldn’t help but think that this is too often how we can think of our own lives. Just a collection of memories that we build along the way, with the little details fading away. “Remember that time?” we say as we begin to think back and tell another story of glory days gone by.

Despair can easily creep in when the opportunities for better pictures begins to fade. Many people seek to subdue the nagging suspicions that life is just a series of snapshots by filling their lives with as many grand moments they can. They

In one particularly moving scene, Mason’s Mom weeps as she sees her son excitedly preparing to leave the house to go to college — one of the final snapshots we see.

“You know what I’m realizing? My life is just going to go,” she says. “Like that. This series of milestones. Getting married. Having kids. Getting divorced. The time that we thought you were dyslexic. When I taught you how to ride a bike. Getting divorced… again. Getting my masters degree. Finally getting the job I wanted. Sending Samantha off to college. Sending you off to college. You know what’s next? Huh? It’s my funeral!”

How easy it would be to find ourselves in the same place — our hope placed in the moments we are creating. What do we do when those moments are gone? I heard in Mason’s Mom’s words the echoes of Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” 

As Christians we know our lives aren’t just a series of photos and memories.  When we see that the collection of snapshots and photos is a part of the Grand Story — the ultimate photobook if you will — our life takes on so much more meaning. When we see ourselves as part of God’s Story, the story of grace, redemption, and restoration, our lives have a true meaning. Without the reality of eternity and the New Kingdom, we have nothing.

Yet with the Gospel, we have everything.

As with any movie, I highly recommend reading a review prior to viewing to decide if this is something you want to watch yourself. 

Manliness in Marriage: The How-to Guide

No one will mistake me for the classic manly man — I currently have no beard, I’ve never really hunted or killed anything (on purpose at least), and I’m only a fan in theory of camping.

When I was a single guy, I knew that one day I’d need some “manly” skills — and not necessarily the gun-toting, camo-wearing kind. More like the “I-just-need-this-in-life” kind.

It started with a group of young guys I went to college with. We identified a man we respected and asked him to “teach us his ways.” We all realized that there were so many basic masculine skills we were missing from our “toolbox.”

Then and there we started our weekly gathering called the “Band of Brothers.” Over the course of a few months, we learned how to be men. Here’s what we learned and how you can recreate the same thing (including but not limited to how to roof a house, fire a gun, sharpen a knife, change a tire, change the oil, dress like a man, cook meat, and use tools).

Little did I know how formative this time in my life would be.

The Syllabus 

Before we began the process, a syllabus was created by our fearless leader to guide us. It opened with this course description:

“It has been rightly said that higher education grooms the mind, but neglects the body.  It could be added that the social construct of men is designed to be developed outside of the classroom by accomplishing difficult tasks amidst hard work.  Many times this takes the form of sports.  However, we need to equip men in their masculinity who will in turn lead other men and develop a culture of expressed masculinity.  This is an essential component of theological education and equipping for ministry – regardless of what that ministry might look like.”

The syllabus continued and emphasized the danger in having only mental knowledge with no knowledge of several basic masculine skills:

“Many men leave college uniquely equipped to handle and apply the specific knowledge needing in their respective fields.  However, the student’s ability to impact culture can sometimes be undermined by a lack of knowledge about more masculine areas of interest.  In their churches and workplaces they will gain credibility, broaden their impact, and increase their leadership profile if they properly learn several basic masculine skills.”

The syllabus also included a brief schedule, some recommended reading, and contact information.

What We Learned 

Every week for a semester we would gather together to learn a new skill, often times being taught by a subject-matter expert — a police officer, a Navy SEAL, or a school president for example. These lessons included (but we not limited to):

  1. Roofing a house
  2. Firing, disassembling, and cleaning guns
  3. Building fires without matches
  4. Learning the basic components of an engine
  5. Changing tires, oil, and spark plugs in a car
  6. Learning and using basic tools
  7. Sharpening and using knives
  8. Backing up a trailer
  9. Driving a tractor
  10. Stringing a barbed wire fence
  11. Dressing for corporate functions (a.k.a, “dressing to kill”)
  12. Administering battlefield first aid
  13. Camping without a tent

On some occasions, one of those in the group would be tasked with researching and teaching the next week. It gave us an opportunity to both learn something new and to learn how to teach and lead other men.In each and every category we learned as much as possible and did as much hands-on training and learning that time would allow. On some occasions, one of those in the group would be tasked with researching and teaching the next week. It gave us an opportunity to both learn something new and to learn how to teach and lead other men.

Perhaps most exciting and helpful was how close the group grew together over the course of those weeks and months we worked side-by-side. It’s not every day that you see young men growing deep relationships with one another, but this group did that. We were able to take what we learned and apply it, but more than that we had deep, gospel-centered relationships that still continue to this day.

Recommendations 

This is by no means an exhaustive description of how to do this. We met once a week. You could gather a group of young guys together once a month to learn a new skill. The bottom line is this: I think this type of “class” is needed. I can’t emphasize enough how formative and helpful this was to me and the other men who took time each Tuesday to learn a new skill.

In summary, here’s what you need to do:

  • Ensure the group is committed — the key to this group is establishing a core of men who are motivated and willing to “sit at the feet” of someone older and wiser than them
  • Identify a man who “knows” it all and ask him to teach you or a group of men and sit at his feet
  • Put together a plan (syllabus if you need to) and write the plan down
  • Meet no matter what
  • Use subject matter experts where you’re lacking

Looking forward to reading your comments and answering any questions you may have.

Thank you
I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically thank John Powell, the man who I and many other young men have to thank for his input into our lives. Today I realize what an incredible sacrifice is was to spend time with a group of raw young men who knew so little. We are so thankful — you’ll probably never know the full extent of your influence, but God did great things and is continuing to do great things.

Four Lies About Faithfulness

So often we buy into the lies of not only the world around us, but also our own “Christian” culture about faithfulness. Normal, nameless ministry is no longer acceptable. Small churches, although frankly the norm, are not considered something to pursue.

For many of us who are young, we want to really change the culture around us any way that we can. The common belief is that those at “the top” are the game changers, the trendsetters, and the culture shifters. I don’t believe it for a second. And so I present to you four lies that we often buy about faithfulness.

Lie #1: My present actions hold no consequences

This is completely false. If you spent time with any man or woman over 65, they would all tell you that their teen and early formative years proved to be extremely influential on who they are and who they became. What you do right now, the seeds you plant, will one day come forth and produce some kind of fruit. You will receive the consequences, whether good or bad, from the way you live right now. Don’t waste your time right now. Prepare yourself for the future by being faithful with what you have right now.

Lie #2: Big always equals great

Faithfulness and true greatness usually happen in private. Being “big” or “famous” does not mean that you are “great.” True greatness is often found, and usually found, in the small and humble who are faithfully serving day in and day out. I could probably argue that the President of the United States is great – but what about his mother, or his teachers, or any number of people who have influences and affected him and helped him be the man he is today? Never forget that humble, quiet faithfulness is truly great.

Lie #3: Fame always means effectiveness

Faithfulness doesn’t need praise or immediate results. It realizes that although it may seem that those who are famous seem effective, those who are faithfully plodding with have fruit that lasts for eternity. That’s not to say that fame doesn’t mean effectiveness. That’s not it at all. God uses people and places them in special situations to have influence. But it does not negate the fact that those who are faithfully with where they are and with what they have can have just as much effectiveness for the Kingdom of God as those who are effective as “famous” people.

Lie #4: Small people don’t make a difference in the world

There are hundreds of stories that could expose this lie. I’ve told the story of my great-grandmother time and time again. She was a “nobody” in the general sense, yet I know hundreds of people have been changed through the ministry that she and my great-grandfather had with them. I am certain there are untold stories of faithful saints who have served in relative obscurity – yet they will be given the greatest seat when we enter heaven. Do not despair if you find yourself in a small place. Be faithful to the end.