Apprenticeship with Jesus: Learning to Live Like the Master (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009)

We don’t use the word “apprentice” as much as they did in years gone by. We talk about having a mentor or a coach but seldom do we learn as an apprentice from a “Master Teacher.”

Maybe that’s why so many people would say they believe in Jesus as their Lord but so few would be confident in saying that they live like Jesus.

Gary Moon believes that the difference is that so much of our Christian life has to do with intellect rather than experience. Apprentices experienced life and learning with their teacher. And that is precisely what a disciple is: an apprentice or “learner” who studies with a Master teacher.

The first time this became clear to me was in West Texas. A man at our church was a blacksmith at Ft. Concho. I had never met a blacksmith. I had seen them in movies and TV Westerns. So I asked him how he became a blacksmith. His answer? He “apprenticed” with a Master “Smithy.”

That’s what Gary Moon helps us do in this much-needed resource. It lays out a 30-day experience of walking with Jesus and practicing the life that Jesus lives. You can read the book and be encouraged and gain some wisdom. But the book will do its best work if you actually practice the “apprentice activites” at the end of each chapter.

The first activity may be the most difficult. Moon writes:

Our first to-do will be to get to our day planners before anyone else can.

When was the last time you had an experience with Jesus? Grab a copy of this book and have one. And see if your life isn’t better in 30 days.


Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2014)

I have a yearly ritual. Ever since I participated in a ministry training internship in Miami in…(well…I won’t reveal the year. I’m feeling young today and don’t want to ruin the mood) … let’s just say my college days with a young mentor named Max Lucado, I have had this ritual. I look forward to the release of a yearly title from Max. It’s like an annual meet-up with an old friend.

I don’t go to Max for my deep, hard thought Bible study. That’s not his purpose in writing. I go to Max for encouragement in my faith journey. It’s my opinion that he excels at that.

So yesterday when the package arrived I found some time to sit for a while with my friend. This year’s offering is Before Amen. And if, like me, you’ve ever struggled with prayer, this book will encourage you.

Max strips the stuffiness off of high brow prayers and brings prayer to a reachable place. A place where a child can talk talk to his Father. Here are a few lines from Lucado:

  • Prayer can be the internal voice that directs the external action.
  • Prayer is the hand of faith on the door handle of your heart.
  • Before you face the world, face your Father.

Prayer is the only thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them. He gave them a simple prayer from which to learn. He’ll do the same for you. And, if you need a little help along the way, this book will be a good purchase for you.


The Art of Neighboring (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012)

Remember when people knew their neighbors? That’s what I thought. There was a time when neighbors knew each other. They ate together. Kids played together. They helped each other and shared life with each other.

Our modern day mobility and increasing isolationism has created a world where we drive home, hop out of the car and disappear into the house. Our friends are online. Our connection is electronic.

But what if that changed? The authors of The Art of Neighboring have taken the Great Commandment seriously: “love your neighbor as yourself.” In a meeting of pastors in the Denver area, their local mayor was asked to attend.  They invited his input on how to serve their community better.  He said,

The majority of the issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbors.

They pursued fulfilling the second part of the Great Commandment and their discoveries are found in this book and on their website. Some of the advice:

  • Give what you have
  • Just do something
  • Don’t give up.

Love your neighbor as yourself. It isn’t a suggestion. 

This book will help you live it out.



The Leader’s Journey (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003)

Most of us think that to lead well we need to manage those we lead first.  This book moves the focus to learning to manage self first before we will be able to lead others well.

Written by my friend Jim Herrington with Trisha Taylor and Robert Creech, this book and the personal coaching I’ve had along the way has transformed the way I view leadership.  It has also helped transform me.  (To any who say, “That’s the extent of the effect on you?” I say, “You should have seen me before!”)

One of the great concepts in the book comes from a quote from Ronald Richardson’s Creating a Healthier Church:

The leader’s main job, through his or her way of being in the congregation, is to create an emotional atmosphere in which greater calmness exists–to be a less anxious presence.

As the writers say,

The life of Jesus is examined to illustrate his ability to know and do the right thing despite incredible pressure to do otherwise. A model of Radical Obedience, Personal Reflection, and participating in a Community of Grace and Truth are three key ingredients in the personal transformation needed to lead calmly.

Whether you are a leader in your business, at church, at home or in your neighborhood, the principles in this book can give you a blueprint towards more effective leadership.  But be forewarned.  If you don’t want to work first toward personal transformation you will continue seeing the same results you’ve always been getting.

But, if you want see different and better results, this book needs to be a part of your library. Read it and practice it until it becomes you.


Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014)

In his book Soul Keeping John Ortberg gives us an inside look into his time with Dallas Willard learning about the soul. He gives us some gems from Willard such as:

“The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity. You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.” p. 23.

“You are not just a self; you are a soul.” p. 39

“When you are connected with God and other people in life, you have a healthy soul.” p. 43

Ortberg guides us into a better understanding of our souls through his wisdom and humor. If you’ve ever felt as if things in your outside world were going well but your inside world was falling apart this book will help you. If you’ve ever had your outside world falling apart but inside you were calm and peaceful and focused on God … well, you might want to read it anyway so you can share it with someone else.

The truth is you are a soul. And the question is, “how is your soul?” If you need a doctor this book can guide you to health.

A Failure of Nerve (New York: Seabury Books, 1999)

Failure of Nerve is not light reading.  But if you desire to not be a light person it may just be the book for you.

Friedman wrote most of this book before his death and a team put out the finished product. He considered it the summation of all his ideas.  Anyone in any type of leadership role–parent, teacher, executives, presidents, city officials–should take this as required reading.

Leaders will always find themselves in situations where “anxiety” is rampant.  That’s when a failure of nerve happens.  Leaders allow that anxiety to keep them from what they are in position to do: lead.

Here’s one of the many great quotes from Friedman.  In describing who this book is not for he says:

It is not for those who fail to see how in any family or institution a perpetual concern for consensus leverages power to the extremists.

What one can learn from reading this book is that a leader will move his or her focus from how to motivate others to a focus on the leader’s own presence and being.  As Friedman says:

What counts is the leader’s presence and being, not technique and know-how.

If you think that leadership in America is hurting then get a copy of this book.

Friedman will have you start with yourself.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009)

This is one of my all-time favorite books.  In it Donald Miller helps us see our life as a story.  It’s a story we can shape with the possibility of writing a better one.

Donald needed a better story.

After the success of Blue Like Jazz he found himself in a rut.  Sleeping late.  Avoiding his responsibilities.  But then a couple of movie producers approached him wanting to turn his book into a movie.  Through that experience Don learns how to re-script his life.

In doing so he found one life to love.

You can too.  Pick up a copy today.

Daring Greatly (New York: Gotham Books, 2012)

Brene Brown became known for her TED talks that went viral.  She spoke on the Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame  and people hung on her every word.

This book is full of great insights like:

When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make. Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.

Brown begins her writing by taking us to a passage from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech referred to as “The Man in the Arena” where he said that “the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…”  (You’ll need to get the book or look it up to finish this great quote.)

Her premise is that vulnerability is actually strength, not weakness, and it is what gives us the courage to stop sitting on the sidelines and get into the game.  The game of life.

Get this book.  It will help you love more the life you have.


The Divine Conspiracy

divine conspiracy

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Dallas Willard says non-discipleship is the “elephant in the church.”

In this vital book Willard discusses the primary teaching of Jesus.  We call it the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus presented a vision of “life in the kingdom of God.”

My guess is that most of us who hear Jesus’ words would agree that if we could all live as he taught we’d live better lives.  We’d be living the good life.

If you haven’t read this one, order a copy today.