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Intentional Living

By David Murray on Nov 09, 2015 02:00 am

Intentional Living: Choosing a Life That Matters by John Maxwell ($12.99 Kindle, $16.55 hardcover).

I like to read a John Maxwell book every 3-4 years. As there tends to be considerable overlap in his books, if you only buy every third of fourth, you’ve got a better chance of getting fresh material. Of that new material, I usually discard about 50% of it as only applicable to business rather than pastoral ministry. But in the remaining 50%, I always find 3-5  worthwhile insights to help me be a better communicator, administrator, pastor, and leader.

Although Maxwell was once a pastor, threads Christian principles through most of his books, and in this one tells a lot about his Christian life (which was fascinating), I’m not reading his books for theology or ecclesiology. His theology is Arminian and his ecclesiology is rather man-centered and marketing-oriented. In this book, that often results in him crediting himself and his techniques for the dramatic church growth he saw in his ministry.

All that said, this was still a profitable book for me to read. When the publisher sent it to me for review a couple of months ago, it happily coincided with a time when I was being pushed and pulled in different directions by various writing, speaking, teaching, preaching, and counseling demands.

This book helped me to get a big picture view of my life and ministry and clarify an overarching purpose that pulled together all the complex strands. Its practical teaching on finding and following a clear purpose has enabled me to decide what to do each day, what speaking and writing opportunities to pursue, and what long-term projects to prioritize.

It clarified for me why I blog and what direction my blog should take. It also persuaded me to write a book that a publisher suggested to me, even though I was not actively looking for another writing project.

Some of Intentional Living is a bit idealist, some of it unrealistic (e.g. “Everybody has one thing they do better than anyone else in the world”), and some of it is too focussed on numerical or financial success (with hints of prosperity gospel here and there). However, without too much thought or effort, you can discard these bones and still find some good meat around them. The meat for me was:

The importance of why

“If you want to make a difference and live a life of significance, you must tap into your why. You need to start thinking about your purpose. Your why is the life’s blood of intentional living….Once you know your why you will be able to find your way.”

Questions to find your why

1. What do you cry about? What breaks your heart? What disturbs you? What makes you take action to bring healing?

2. What makes you sing? What makes you happy? Puts a bounce in your step? Makes you jump for joy?

3. What do you dream about? What if you could do anything you wanted to make the world a better place?

4. Is there something that comes easily to you that others find difficult?

5. What’s your strength? What would happen if you invested more in developing this strength?

6. What makes you feel energized?
7. What do you find yourself thinking about in your spare time?

Change thinking  from “What’s in it for me?” to “What can I do for others?” 

What can you help others to learn? How can you make life better for others?  Begin adding value to others using the things you naturally do well and keep fine-tuning your efforts until it aligns with your sweet spot.  Be a ladder builder not a ladder climber

A missing question
One question little touched upon in the book, but so essential from a Christian point of view, is to ask God above all: “What will YOU have me to do?” Of course, God may and often does use the kind of questions that Maxwell suggests to help us find His will. But sometimes God will ask us to do things that are the exact opposite of the answers to these questions. Then, our response must be, “Not my will, but your will be done.”

A missing possibility

And what if our calling is not to do great things but to suffer great things? We all know people who have greatly glorified God on earth through humble submission to tremendous suffering. Their calling is not to find their strength and develop it, but to accept their weakness and trust in God for daily strength. That may not be “intentional living” but it is God-glorifying living.”

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By David Murray on Nov 09, 2015 01:00 am


We Should Expect Non-Christians to Share Our Morals | Christianity Today
If we insist that Christian ethics should have no bearing on public policy, we do a disservice to our theology and cripple the mission of the church. It is a retreat inward and a tacit approval of injustice in society. A public Christianity is not about imposing Christian ethics on an unwilling citizenry. Instead, public Christianity is about marshaling God’s truth in service of our fellow image bearers, using the conscience and persuasion as our means.

Reflections from 40 Years in Pastoral Ministry | Kent Hughes
Well worth studying these answers from Kent Hughes (see his new magnum opus on pastoral ministry below), especially this one: “What’s been the biggest change in pastoral ministry during your lifetime? How should young pastors to navigate that change?”

Despite Wrong Doomsday Stats, Pastors Holding Up Just Fine | Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer continues to debunk false stats about 150o pastors leaving the ministry each month, and instead argues that pastors are doing just fine.

Sherry Turkle: How to Keep Your iPhone from Destroying Your Relationships | Her.meneutics
And on the same topic here’s Unsocial Media by Tony Reinke.

The Gift of Anxiety | The Upward Call
Kim Shay: “Anxiety has taught me a lot about compassion. It has taught me that mental illness is not as black and white as we think. And it taught me that the church has a long way to go toward understanding it and helping its sufferers through it. There is a lot of misunderstanding about it. When a woman struggles with impatience, pride, or selfishness, we want to help. We know it takes time. But when it’s anxiety, it’s as if we think handing out a verse and reminding her that anxiety is a sin will be an automatic cure. It isn’t.”

What It’s Like Explaining Depression Meds to Many Christians
A powerful comic strip illustration of what Kim says above.

New Book Recommendation

The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry by Kent Hughes. 40 years of ministry experience on almost 600 pages!

Kindle Books

Survive or Thrive: 6 Relationships Every Pastor Needs by Jimmy Dodd $3.82.

The Gospel According to Jesus: What Is Authentic Faith? by John Macarthur $5.99.


Hello Jetman
This is phenomenal. I’m not really a danger guy. Bungees, parachutes, tightropes, and rafts have never held much appeal. But this….Wow! Spectacular fulfillment of Genesis 1:28.

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