My Top 10 Books Of 2012 – with almost as many Honorable Mentions

I have struggled after reading 70 books this year to narrow my reading down to the Top 10 for 2012 and due to this fact I am not ranking the books in order of better to best, only the Top 10, with a few honorable mentions. In the Top 10 is the Series by Suzanne Collins called “The Hunger Games.” There are three books in the series and I counted these as one. Therefore the first 12 are the Top 10. Sorry if that is confusing.

Each one is in it’s own right the number 1. There is a variety in the list from Leadership, Church Growth, Social Media, Fiction, and Spiritual and Physical Health. Every one of these books could benefit every member of my church, every church leader, and most of the world.

I hope these brief notes will encourage you to read.


“All the proper doctrine in the world can’t save us from eating away our sensitivity to God’s presence or throwing away years of potential ministry if we wreck our heart’s physical home.”

After doing a fair amount of fasting over the past 20 years, I am convinced that the biggest struggle in America is the food that we eat and shouldn’t. Of course this isn’t the issue for everybody but it is for the masses.

Gary talks a lot about his own personal struggles with food and over eating and that is one things that makes this book such a winner. He admits that he runs a little more so that he can eat a little more of the things he likes that are not good for him. That describes me pretty well also.

The whole idea of the book is that God created us with perfect bodies that work well when treated well and fed well. It is when we eat the wrong things, which is almost everything with processed foods being the norm today. However, there are ways we can combat the wrong foods. They are exercise and eating well, not overeating and not always going for the easy foods.

I would give this book 5 stars out of 5.

Here are a few great quotes from the book.

“God gave us souls — and bodies to go with them. To be fully alive, fully human, fully the people God created us to be, we have to care for our bodies, discipline them, and make them our servants in our service to God.”

“Staying in shape require a lot of work and even regular pain, not being in shape requires its own pains and labors.”

“Protecting your health is the same thing as protecting the vehicle through which God wants to change the world.”

“Sin can lead us to become overweight, but being overweight is not, in and of itself, a sin.”

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book.

‎”The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change; the signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”

‎”The critical question is not “Are you lucky?” but “Do you get a high return on luck?”

‎”Greatness is not a matter of circumstance; greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline.” This is my favorite.

‎”None of us can predict with certainty the twists and turns our lives will take. Life is uncertain, the future unknown. Yet the task of mastering our own fate remains. ”

You shouldn’t wait until you are in an unexpected storm to discover you need more strength. You don’t wait until you are shipwrecked to find out if you can eat raw dolphin. (This is one of the concepts from the book and not a direct quote.)

The following are the 3 concepts found in the successful over the long haul companies they studied.

Fanatic discipline: Discipline, in essence, is consistency of action—consistency with values, consistency with long-term goals, consistency with performance standards, consistency over time. Discipline is not the same as regimentation. True discipline requires the independence of mind to reject pressures to conform in ways incompatible with values, performance standards, and long-term aspirations.

Empirical creativity: They relied on researched empirical evidence. They don’t look to conventional wisdom during a time of uncertainty, nor to other’s opinions—they look for empirical evidence.

Productive paranoia: They maintain hyper-vigilance in good times as well as bad. Even in positive conditions, they constantly consider that events could turn against them at any moment. In fact, they expect it—and recognize that they better be prepared when it does. By embracing the myriad of possible dangers, they put themselves in a superior position to overcome danger.
Note: it isn’t just that they were disciplined, or paranoid—the difference is that they took those qualities to an extreme that few others did.

Here is something I love about the book.

Fire bullets, then follow with Cannonballs. To find what works, don’t risk the whole, fire bullets, find out what works and when you find it, then fire the cannonballs. And by the way, fire lots of bullets.

And finally, a lengthy quote that I think tells the whole story of the book.

[We sense a dangerous disease infecting our modern culture and eroding hope: an increasingly prevalent view that greatness owes more to circumstance, even luck, than to action and discipline—that what happens to us matters more than what we do. Our research evidence stands firmly against this view. This work began with the premise that most of what we face lies beyond our control, that life is uncertain and the future unknown. And luck plays a role for everyone. But if one company becomes great while another in similar circumstances and with comparable luck does not, the root cause of why one becomes great and the other does not simply cannot be circumstance or luck. Indeed, if there’s one overarching message arising from our
research, it is this: greatness is not a matter of circumstance; greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline. The factors that make a company great lie largely within the hands of its people. It isn’t a matter of what happens to them but a matter of what they create, what they do, and how well they do it. We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our luck, or the inherent unfairness of life. We aren’t imprisoned by the times in which we live, our previous mistakes, or our past successes. In the end, we can control only a tiny sliver of what happens to us. But even so, we are free to choose, free to become great by choice.

This book has shaken me from my comfort zone once again and started me back on the path of even greater growth. Here are some notes on what the book is about.

  • The Law of the Mirror: You Must See Value in Yourself to Add Value to Yourself
  • The Law of Awareness: You Must Know Yourself to Grow Yourself
  • The Law of Modeling: It’s Hard to Improve When You Have No One But Yourself to Follow
  • The Law of the Rubber Band: Growth Stops When You Lose the Tension Between Where You are and Where You Could Be
  • The Law of Contribution: Developing Yourself Enables You to Develop Others

“Improving yourself daily guarantees you a future filled with possibilities.”

I plan to dig back through this book and work through the next year putting into place the things that I have learned.

This book asks the question, “Are we creating worship services for churched people or un-churched people? If all we are interested in is keeping the people we have happy, then we can keep doing the things we have been doing for the past 20, 30, 50 years. If we want to reach people who are not in church then we have to make some changes.

Every church leader, pastor, board, and member should read this book.

Some quotes from the book.

“This is a book about creating churches that unchurched men, women, and children love to attend.”

“This is a book about how to make your church more appealing to the people who are put off by all the shenanigans that give church, big churches in particular, a bad name — people who know there’s more to life than this life but who can’t imagine that the church holds any clues.”

“As I will discuss in detail later, our ongoing challenge is to make sure we stay in the unchurched people market. That’s not easy. Now that we’re so big, it’s not even necessary. Who would know? Who would care? Truth is, only our core would know. But we would all quit if we thought that staying meant spending the rest of our productive lives running a big church rather than making a big difference.”

“All my critics are religious people. (It may be the only thing I have in common with Jesus.)”

I first heard of Paul Young when someone suggested that I read his book, “The Shack.” I read that book and it was a game changer for me. It was one of those books that you read and it changes the way you see things. It didn’t change my theology, it changed my way of viewing some things. Paul Young has a gift of helping us use our imagination. Many people saw the book as controversial and those who did will also see this book as controversial. The book is FICTION!

If you are religious and like to find fault, you will not like this book and you won’t like Paul Young. On the other hand, if you are hurting, if you have hurt in the past and you are having a hard time seeing God in the pain, if you’re trying to get a grasp of who God is and how he behaves, you will love Paul Young and his books.

In the first book I cried through the first half of the book and in this one, “Cross Roads” I laughed so hard through most of the book. It is amazing in the midst of a tragic story there was great laughter and love and new understanding. I don’t want to give anything about the book away but I hope that you will read it and I believe if you do, you will fall even more in love with the Creator of this universe. I believe that you will come away with a better understanding of pain and suffering. I believe you will come away with a better understanding of forgiveness, grace, and true meaning in life.

And most of all I believe you will come away with a great understanding of the life-after.

I couldn’t put it down and would recommend you get it and devour it. One suggestion, if you haven’t read “The Shack” I would read that one first but it isn’t necessary for understanding.

Dr. Steve Brown has done it again. I read everything that he writes and I own more of his sermons than any preacher I have ever listened to. Steve Brown has taught me more than any other preacher in my entire life. He has taught me about leadership, he has taught me about being a teacher, and a preacher, but most of all Steve Brown has taught me about the Radical Love of God. Steve Brown is my favorite preacher of all time.

That is what this book is about, “Three Free Sins” is not a joke and it isn’t a gimmick to get people to read another book. Steve really believes that God loves us and that is what matters. He is not advocating sin, he is advocating taking God at his word when he says, he took our sin when he died on the cross.

This is not a book for the faint at heart, the judgmental, or the religious, or maybe it is. It might oil a person’s mind and heart and help them to see truth.

Read everything Steve ever writes, you can’t go wrong.

Awakening is a church movement started by the ministry of Celebration Church under the leadership of Pastor Stoval Weems. This church starts every year with a 21 day fast to start the year off right. In the book Stoval explains the different types of fasts people undertake for the 21 days, he shares stories of answered prayer and changed lives, and the tremendous impact these 21 days and living a fasted lifestyle have blessed the church to grow from 7 people to over 10,000 in attendance each week in just 12 years.

God uses fasting in us to make room for new things He wants to do in and through our lives.

Pat Williams is the Senior Vice President of the Orlando Magic and author of several books. Several that I plan to read ASAP. If you are a sports fan, you’re going to love the stories Pat shares in this book.

However, it is not just a leadership book for the sports world. It is a leadership book for the Church, the Sports World, the Business World, and just about any leadership situation you find yourself engaged in.

“The purpose of a committee is to gather information and discuss items brought before them but a committee doesn’t lead. Leaders lead and leaders make decisions, therefore committees were never meant to make decisions.”

“One thing I’ve learned through the years is that leadership is like a three-legged stool. The first leg is viewing yourself as a leader. The second leg is preparing yourself as a leader. The third leg is stepping up and taking a leadership role when the opportunity presents itself.” Pat williams

“Every great leader, from Washington to Lincoln to Churchill to Disney to Jobs, has experienced discouraging failures and setbacks. Every one of these leaders would certainly have quit somewhere along the line if not for a vision.”

“We need leaders with the vision to imagine a world beyond terrorism, a world beyond poverty and hunger, a world beyond energy shortages and energy dependence, a world beyond cancer and heart disease and Alzheimer’s and AIDS. We need leaders with the bold, optimistic vision to believe that nothing is impossible, that every problem has a solution.”

If you are in ministry, you should read this book and process it. You may disagree with it, you may get angry that the world is changing and has changed rapidly. But one thing you can’t argue with, if we refuse to change with the times in how we present the the changeless message of the gospel, then the world will pay us no mind.

The world today, which operates in the social media world, virtual, online, will simply leave behind those who ignore it.

“Our well-being depends on our ability to connect with other humans.” Leonard Sweet

(Social Media is about connecting)

“We know time is constant, but in recent years it seems time started moving much more quickly.” Leonard Sweet (Social Media is the reason)

“The tribe that feels most at home in the twenty-first-century Digital Age is what we will call the Googlers—the digitized, globalized group that spends much of its life getting to know one another in a virtual world.” Leonard Sweet (In Viral)

“As I look at the waning of Gutenberg Culture and the arrival of Google Culture, I have to wonder if Jesus wouldn’t be more at home with the Googlers. In fact, as the Western church built by Gutenbergers continues to lose ground in a world of Googlers, I am convinced that Christians need to start taking cues from the Googlers.” Leonard Sweet (In Viral)

Reading this book has helped me to see that I need to read more non-Christian fiction. Here are a few reasons why.

#1. This is a really well written book with a good story.

#2. It kept me turning the pages. (In Kindle that is)

#3. It was a great and relaxing break from the reading and serious study I do for sermons on a regular basis.

#4. There are lots of possibilities to use here in sermons.

#5. It is a very popular series that has now surpassed “Harry Potter” in sales and I can now carry on a conversation with a lot of people in something they really enjoy talking about.

It would be difficult for me to tell you much about the book without giving away things that I would rather encourage you to find out by reading this book. It is a post apocalyptic setting where the Country has been sectioned into 13 districts. One of the districts has been destroyed because of rebellion against the governing authorities and the Hunger Games were started to remind people they should never rebel again.

Several parents have asked if it is appropriate for teens and pre-teens to read and I believe that it is. It is a great story line of a very real possibility in the world in which we live. There is killing in the book but it is no worse than the cowboy and Indian movies I watched almost 40 years ago where people would shoot flaming arrows into people. The book is not so graphic to be offensive in this manner. The people who are killing are not doing it because they want to, they are being made to do it to not only save their own lives but the lives of family and friends.

I love these books. Yes, I think the thought of kids killing kids is repulsive, yes, I think the thought of a government forcing people to kill each other as a game for others to enjoy is terrible, and yes, I believe there are disturbing things in these books that will cause you to wince. With that said, they are great books. I said in my notes on the first book in this series, “The Hunger Games”, and I will say it again. The people in the story were not basking in the idea of killing each other, they were not crazed criminals looking for their next kill.

This is a story in the setting of a post-apocalyptic world, the government has taken control of the people and to remind each section or district of the Country not to ever revolt again and try to overthrow the government, the government draws out two names each year, a boy and a girl, from each of the 12 districts and they have to go into an arena of sorts and fight to the death. The victor is rewarded and the reminder is that every year this is what happens because of the first uprising, it could be made to be worse.

Several Definite Honorable Mentions and Valuable Reading.

If you want to be encouraged in your prayer life, read this book. If you want to learn more about the God we serve who answers prayer, read this book. If you want to know how to understand the answers to your prayers, read this book.

“Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers.” Mark Batterson

“God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less.” Mark Batterson

“If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.” Mark Batterson

If you want to be challenged out of the status-quo, then read this book. If you would rather do things like they have always been done, then don’t read it, it would just make you mad and you would be one with a numb gluteus maximus instead of wet feet. (You have to read the book to find out what that means) :0

The book is a serious look at the story of Beniniah in the Old Testament. Mentioned in only a few short verses but in a story that Batterson is able to bring to life like I have never seen before. As a matter of fact, I have never heard a sermon where this man was mentioned in my life.

I can’t say enough good about this book. Batterson is encouraging us to take what we have and serve God with it. Be it much or little, God makes all the difference.

“Usually, when the image of a man-eating beast travels through the optical nerve and registers in the visual cortex, the brain has one over-arching message: Run away. Normal people run away from lions. They run as far and as fast as they possibly can. But lion chasers are wired differently.”

The message here is that we cannot continually run away from challenges in life. These challenges are often times what God uses to get us to a new place in life and in our spiritual life. Confront your challenges.

“I’ve learned that taking no risks is the greatest risk of all.”

“I’m absolutely convinced that our greatest regrets in life will be missed opportunities.”

“When you cross paths with the lion, are you going to run away like a scaredy-cat or are you going to grab life by the mane?”

“Maybe it is time to quit running and time to start chasing. Try something new. Take some risks. Start doing some things that are worth recounting in jaw-dropping detail. I think we owe it to our kids and grandkids.”

Adam and I do not agree on everything but I would say on most. This book and its conclusion is one that we definitely agree upon. In Adam’s book he tackles some of the hardest questions we struggle with. Why do bad things happen? Why do people die? Why doesn’t God answer my prayer? and several more.

The overwhelming take home from this book is that we misunderstand who God is and how God behaves. We have heard through the years so many thing about God that the Bible really doesn’t teach and we have heard them from sources that we take for granted they know what they are talking about. Sad to say, we have gotten some very bad information through the years.

God never promised to make everyone well in this life.

God never promised everyone would be wealthy in this life.

God never said that if we lived for Him and tried our best that everything would go well for us.

God never said that being good gained us favor above others in this life.

As a matter of fact, the Bible teaches us that if we follow God’s will as laid out in scripture, we may very well face hardship because of it. This is a fact of scripture.

“As I began to actually read the Bible I found that my assumptions about what the Bible taught were wrong. The sweeping message of the Bible is not a promise that those who believe and do good will not suffer. Instead the Bible is largely a book about people who refused to let go of their faith in the face of suffering.” Adam Hamilton

“Twenty to thirty thousand people die every day of diseases related to starvation and malnutrition. Is this God’s will? Or is God’s will that those who have resources work to help those who do not? The clear message of Scripture is the latter.” Adam Hamilton

“When non-Christians hear Christians say things like “everything happens for a reason” and “it must have been the will of God,” they are left with an impression of God that is hardly loving and just, but instead a picture of God who wills evil and suffering in the world.” Adam Hamilton

“Our primary aim should be to glorify God, not to be honored or to be healthy or to be happy.” Adam Hamilton

A book that speaks to leaders across a broad spectrum. This book is really geared to the person who is going to run a business, especially a business you would start from the ground up. With that said, there is a lot of great leadership gold here for Non-Profit leaders, Church leaders, you name it, if it is leadership this book can help you.

Very thorough, from hiring, firing, communication, casting vision, budgeting, a to z, it’s all here.

“I resist the standard employee mentality so much that I have quit using the word “employees.” I call them team members, and I mean it.”

Everything in the book is about being a productive, unified, team. People want to be part of a team and not just an employee. Dave says that employees come in late to work, goof off, and steal from you, but team members work together to make everyone better. One note, he isn’t saying that all employees do these things, he is saying that we should stop using the term employee’s and every working situation becomes a team.

“Words matter. So when we call someone a “team member” at our place, that means something; it isn’t some corporate HR program that tries to make slaves to jerks feel better by changing the words. It means you will be treated like and expected to act like you are on a team. When we call someone an EntreLeader it means something. It means you are more than a renegade lone ranger and it means you are more than a corporate bureaucrat who treats his people like units of production.”

I have read through the years, many books that state the following, “Everything rises and falls on leadership,” and I believe that statement to be true. If the leaders isn’t motivated, the team will not be motivated. If the leader isn’t a learner, the team will not be learners, if the leader isn’t responsible, the team will not be responsible. Everything rises and falls on leadership. Lack of leadership is painful for the team and detrimental to the organization.

Dave says, Spineless Leader is an oxymoron.

“So the problem with my company then and now is me. The problem with your company is not the economy, it is not the lack of opportunity, it is not your team. The problem is you. That is the bad news. The good news is, if you’re the problem, you’re also the solution. You’re the one person you can change the easiest. You can decide to grow. Grow your abilities, your character, your education, and your capacity. You can decide who you want to be and get about the business of becoming that person.”

“Let’s face it, the reason so many churches are half full on Sunday morning is because a whole bunch of people decided not to come back. Why? The preacher didn’t give ’em anything to come back for. There were plenty of points, but nothing worth coming back for the following week.”

“Are you willing to abandon a style, an approach, a system that was designed in another era for a culture that no longer exists?”

One of the best books I have read on worship. Zach Neese has spent a considerable amount of time on this project, He takes us back to the Old Testament and helps us to see why we worship the way we do. Zach also drives the point home that all of life is meant to be about our relationship with God, our worship of Him, and not just an hour on Sunday morning.

This book does a great job of bringing to the fore the importance of community and the importance of connection. Of which, many in the church world feel that community is only done in face to face communication. John Voelz in this book challenges that thinking with the basis of scripture and he does it quite well. Now, there will be people who will read this book and still disagree but that is better than refusing to read it because you believe that social media is evil in some form.

“The classroom battle cry “Stop passing notes” has become “I’m going to confiscate your smartphone.”

I include this quote just because when I was in school cell phones were unheard of and it was a matter of getting into trouble for passing notes. The quote is a reminder that social media, cell phones, facebook, twitter, etc are here to stay, they are not going away except to be replaced with something that will be even more confusing to those who refuse to learn what is happening now.

“In corporate worship environments, people need to be made aware of the rules. Social Networking in church is only out of line if it is understood that it has no place there. If you desire to create an environment where Social Networking is acceptable as part of the experience, you will have to educate your people so they know it is appropriate.”

This is a great place to start with social media in the church. There is nothing wrong with social media in the church. It is no different than having hymnals, multi media, etc. However, we will have to educate people in established churches about what we intend to do with this media and how it will be helpful. This has been an easy task where I am currently serving as the pastor because I helped plant the church and I essentially pastor a group of 300 plus people through social media throughout the week and we are being very fruitful with it. It was not this way in the church where I served full-time before. It is going to be like introducing anything else that is new and different. Sometimes a battle but I believe it is one worth entering.

“To use or not to use Social Networking in church is a question of methodology, not theology.”

“Social Networking is not a fad. It is a new way of communicating. Whether your church is a forward-thinking midwestern church, you live on one of the coasts, or you belong to a small passive congregation, this new way of communicating is affecting you, your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors, your real estate agent, and everyone you are called to love for the sake of the Kingdom. They are speaking a new language. It is a default language. You may not become fluent in every situation overnight. But you need to learn it.”

Here is one of my favorite nuggets from the book. I cannot be everyone’s buddy but through social media, I can be everyone’s friend. 

I have been saying to people this is the best book I have read all year but after thinking about it, this book is probably better stated as the most beneficial.

“The average person receives 41.5 texts per day and sends/receives 141 email messages per day.”

I am right smack dab in the top rung of this statistic.

For years now I have struggled to keep up. Every morning when I wake up there would be 100+ e-mails waiting for my attention and many of them would sit in my inbox for weeks and even months. Not anymore…

Here are some of the things Eric recommends for defeating the e-mail monster.

#1. If you are like most people, you have too much coming into your inbox. Whether it is email, text messages, instant messages, Skype video, Facebook chat, Twitter, or the next new thing—a lot of material is coming at you. You should relish this as it means someone else thinks you are important.

“You should tackle answering your email at two 30-minute intervals during the day and get through as much of it as you can. While you probably will not be able to answer everyone in 24 hours, you will be less stressed and more focused on responding to the most important emails first.”

“Most messages can be answered in one to two sentences—start making this a habit.”

“Some people suffer from a digital pack rat mentality. If you haven’t read something in 10 days delete it. It must not be that important. If you cannot bring yourself to delete rigorously, then make a folder called “to read” and put them there. Most likely you will never read these, but it quickly clears your inbox of unnecessary clutter.”

“Before you send a message determine if it’s absolutely necessary. The more messages you send the more messages you will receive.”

“Turn off the message alert functionality on all your devices and applications.”

This is a book every leader should read.

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