Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Heaven's Lessons by Steve Sjogren


         There are quite a few stories that you will often hear about those who had died and came back again. But, often the focus of the story is what the person saw, heard and experienced during their time out of their body. Enter Steve Sjogren. Steve has been a Pastor, author and community leader for decades. Several years ago, Steve died on an operating table and came back again. And in his book, Heaven's Lessons, the emphasis is not as much on the experience he had, but on the lessons he learned from his encounter with death, eternity and who is on the other side.
         Heaven's Lessons tells the story of ten lessons that Steve learned after having his encounter with death. Ranging from God is big, to face your fear, each one emphasizes important truths that we may have been taught, but can become different in the light of eternity. They each give  us a fresh new look at principles that are important but often are neglected or not emphasized in our culture. But, the author also weaves bits and pieces of his own personal experience, both before and after his brush with death, into the pages of each chapter.
         The most particularly fascinating chapter to me was chapter eight, entitled. Get Over It. One of the things Steve Sjogren learned came after a visit to a therapist who helped him sort through the emotional issues he was encountering. He had a bad break with the church he had Pastored and had to resign later after he had already been through a great amount of trauma. But then his psychologist told him "Even though you had absolutely nothing to do with the accident...practically everyone in your organization is very angry with you because you have up-ended their lives." (page 104). This was something he had never considered and it helped him in the process of overcoming all that he had been through up until that point.
         While I expected to hear a little more about his after death experience based on the title of the book, I was nevertheless pleased at the contents of this fine work. This book was given to me complimentary as a part of the book review program for bloggers at . I am glad that I read it. And I hope that you and I can learn from the lessons contained in it's pages that the spiritual world is more real than the natural world and we should live each day in the light of that reality, knowing that one day all of us will face the other side of the grave to behold our creator, in all of His glory.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley

Next Generation Leader - Andy Stanley
                 There was a period of time 10-15 years ago, when the 'leadership' movement was dominating the Christian world. Books, CDs and seminars abounded in teaching leadership principles to individuals in every area possible. Sometimes, the things that were lacking amidst all of the hype were proven leaders who had lived some of the principles they were espousing, and not merely parroting others who had gone before them. But, then, we  come to one of Andy Stanley's latest books, Next Generation Leader.
                 Andy Stanley, himself, is a proven leader. The Pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia not only leads thousands of people weekly, but through his ministry other churches are springing up all over the country and multitudes of Pastors across the United States look to him as a teacher, mentor and spiritual father. The book, Next Gneration Leader, declares the truths that have helped him to lead and that he believes will help both those who are leading now and those who will be the leaders of the future.
                The book is divided into five sections, each beginning with the letter "C", standing for Competenece, Courage, Clarity, Coaching, and Character. The chapters then develop each of those topics and expand the ideas presented for the subject being exmined. No chapter is so lengthy that you couldn't read it in just a few minutes time. But, each chapter is packed with "food for thought" that will keep you chewing on the rich truths presented.
                 One of the things I appreciated most about the book was the personal illustrations the author uses to drive home his points. Rather than the stories coming off as the boastings of a
"leadership guru" declaring how to be perfect, Andy Stanley is very transparent and vulnerable as he relates not the only the times when he knew what to do, but the times when he had to learn by not knowing what to do and having to rely on others on his team, who were talented and gifted leaders also. I particularly found the story of the developement of their "syamese sanctuaries" a fascinating lessson in courage, because leadership requires the courage to take risks and do things that can potentially fail. In that case, he took a risk that proved to be a great decision. But you'll have to read that section to find out more about it.
                 It was great to read a book on leadership that wasn't full of the lists of all of the things you feel like you'll never be able to accomplish, nor the motivational speeches of an athletic instructor who doesn't know if you have what it takes to stay in the game. Next Generation Leader was inspiring, encouraging and educational.  I received this book for free from "Water Brook/Multnomah Publishing Group" for this review. I am very glad that I had the privilege of reading it. You may read an excerpt at