Leaders are Readers – Books I’ve Read Since January 1, 2022

There are no ‘experts’, there are only expert learners. It doesn’t matter whether you are 10 years old or 100 years old, there is always something new to learn.

One of the best ways to become a better leader is to read voraciously and widely.

Why? Because leaders are readers. Not only does reading widely help you learn new skills and qualities of leadership, reading and learning keep you HUMBLE. When you think you’ve somehow ‘arrived’ in your respective domain of vocation or station in life… think again! That’s hubris. “Hubris born of success” is first mark of decline in an organization or team (see Jim Collins’ ‘How the Mighty Fall‘).

There are no ‘experts’, there are only expert learners. It doesn’t matter whether you are 10 years old or 100 years old, there is always something new to learn. Learning keeps your brain active. Healthy curiosity and learning are life giving.

On January 1, 2022 when I set a goal to read 13 books in one year. In the spirit of learning, below is the list of books I’ve read so far. Please note, perhaps you, like me have learning challenges (dyslexia, ADHD, etc)? That’s okay! I read very slowly. Sometimes I must re-read entire books. In a future post, I’ll share some tricks I use in my reading journey.

1. Our Bodies Tell God’s Story: Discovering the Divine Plan for Love, Sex, and Gender – Christopher West

2. Carpe Diem Redeemed: Seizing the Day, Discerning the Times – Os Guinness

3. The Kingdom Unleashed: How Jesus’ 1st-Century Kingdom Values Are Transforming Thousands of Cultures and Awakening His Church – Jerry Trousdale & Dr. Glenn Sunshine

4. Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity – Alisa Childers

5. Art and the Bible – Francis Schaeffer

6. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling – Andy Crouch

7. The Stress Effect: Why Smart Leaders Make Dumb Decisions–And What to Do About It – Henry L. Thompson

8. The Lord of the Rings (Part 2) Tale of the Two Towers – JRR Tolkien

9. QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life – John G. Miller (note: I read this once per year)

10. Hinge Moments: Making the Most of Life’s Transitions – Michael Lindsey

11. The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counterculture and How It Changed America Forever – Os Guinness

Currently reading: Dominion – How the Christian Revolution Remade the World – Tom Holland

In addition, I read my Bible almost every day. I use a devotional reading plan and I read a Proverb daily (there are 31 Proverbs). I also read Psalms and Ecclesiastes often. I have an ESV Reader’s Bible that contains no verses, no references, and no chapters – enabling me to read huge sections of scripture without feeling like I’m chasing rabbit trails. It is a joy!

What books are you reading?

Reflection: The grand story of the place we inhabit

In the beginning God created all things and He set all things in a particular order.

All things are held together and move in certain ways.

God created the place His creatures inhabit.

The realization that God cared enough to share the story of creation with His creature called ‘man’ is astounding. This begs the question, “Why would God even bother to create or share the story?”

The simple answer is, God is all powerful and He is good. God sharing His grand creation story of the place that we inhabit, live, move and have our being is a demonstration of divine love and mercy.

The response is awe-struck wonder!

“Lo, these are but the outskirts of his ways: And how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?”

– Job 26:14

Tone Police

Tone Policing is a logical fallacy (ad hominem). “The ad hominem fallacy occurs whenever the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing an argument is criticized instead of seeking to disprove the argument provided.”

[Philosophy Lander.edu]

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I’ve observed a disturbing trend in the American church.

Tone Policing is a problem among leaders. It needs to stop immediately. Are you a church leader? You are held to a higher standard.

What is Tone Policing?

Tone Policing is “a conversational tactic that dismisses the ideas being communicated when they are perceived to be delivered in an angry, frustrated, sad, fearful, or otherwise emotionally charged manner.” [dictionary.com]

Wikipedia says, “Tone policing (also called tone trolling, tone argument, and tone fallacy) is an ad hominem (personal attack) and anti-debate tactic based on criticizing a person for expressing emotion.

Tone policing detracts from the truth or falsity of a statement by attacking the tone in which it was presented rather than the message itself… it prioritizes the comfort of the privileged person (in authority) in the situation over the oppression of the disadvantaged person.

While anyone can engage in tone policing, it is frequently aimed at women as a way to prevent a woman from making a point in the discussion. It is a means to deflect attention from injustice and relocate the problem in the style of the complaint, rather than address the complaint itself.

Note: Women can be guilty of Tone Policing. This is directed at male church leaders.

Tone Policing is a logical fallacy (ad hominem). “The ad hominem fallacy occurs whenever the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing an argument is criticized instead of seeking to disprove the argument provided.” [Philosophy Lander.edu]

Often times, a personal attack using tone as the offense is converted into a strawman fallacy by someone I’ll call the “Tone Policeman.”

[Cue the siren and the red and blue lights]

A Tone Policeman assumes the role of; victim, hero or social justice warrior in order to coerce, criticize, or manipulate. Accusations of tone crimes shame, silence, degrade, abuse, or bully in order to achieve a desired result (submission or silence).

Interestingly, Tone Policing contains a resemblance to Herbert Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance” with a more pronounced psychologized expression. Think ‘Cancelling’ someone based on their tone (expressed emotion).

Tone Police reside in the domain of organizational power and authority. They typically employ psychologized therapeutic language in order to manipulate. They create an offense where there is no offense.

Tone Policing is a speech code similar to Political Correctness. Instead of censoring certain words or phrases, Tone Police attempt to govern intent and meaning based on vocal inflection or perceived emotion. Both Political Correctness and Tone Policing are extremely toxic and unloving.

How is Tone Policing used?

Tone Policemen attempt to relocate a substantive statement or argument into the domain of style or tone (expressing emotion). It is a deflection tactic that dismisses or ignores the core issue(s). The issue is not the issue, Tone is the issue. In other words, tone trumps substance or truth. A guilty verdict is pronounced by the one in power over someone else for expressing emotion (tone).

Most often a Man’s Game

Typically, the Tone Police tactic is used by men in authority to manipulate women who do not possess power. While women can be guilty of using the Tone Tactic, its most often men. Occasionally, men in authority use it against other men as a power play, defensive/deflection tactic, or psychological manipulation.

Ultimately, this is a passive-aggressive tactic wrapped in therapeutic language.

Left unchecked, a Tone Policeman will go on to gas-light, damage relationships, and toxify an organization.

Example: Mary brings a substantive problem to her male boss with urgency. Because women are perceived as more emotional than men, her boss (Tony) dismisses the substance of the problem. Then he makes perceived emotion (tone) the problem – regardless of the validity of the claim being made by Mary.

Tony says something like, “You know, Mary, I don’t appreciate your tone.” Or “I find your tone very hurtful.” Or “Your tone is so abrasive and harsh.” Or “Mary, you seem joyless, what’s wrong with you?”

Tony is saying, “What you are telling me is true but I don’t like the way you are telling me truth (tone). So, I’ll negate the truth and attack you personally based on your tone. You are guilty of expressing emotion!”

Content and validity are brushed aside while subjective tone is reframed as the issue.

Christian Tone Police take cues from worldly sentimentalities and pop-psychology rather than the Bible.

Sometimes, Tone Policemen produce man-tears. One can cry and lie at the same time, you know. Ask any parent of a 4 year old child. Other times, tone is attributed to body-language. “She had an aggressive posture toward me.” Or “I didn’t like the way she looked at me, it hurt my feelings.”

Most commonly, men in authority use this hurtful and deceitful method to silence or dominate women. Instead of trying to understand the substance of an issue, they create presumptions, inferences, and deflections.

Increasingly in America, we see grown men in Christian leadership roles wallow in feigned self-pity, contrived offense, psychological fragility, and hurt feelings. And men who have experienced actual abused or exploitation are overrun by a crowd of charlatans.

The Darker Side of Tone Police

Some Tone Policemen are so enamored with the spurious glittering therapeutic power of spells they cast, it’s astounding. They relish silencing and controlling others in order to insulate themselves, protect their psychological comfort, or dominate and humiliate others. These males are cowards and don’t deserve the title of ‘Man’ in a biblical sense.

Dealing with Tone Police

Remember, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” [Proverbs 15:1]

Bring the issue forward to one in authority with confidence. I recommend the following steps:

1. Write down the problem – This helps you articulate it and ensure you have a valid issue. To the best of your knowledge, is it true?
2. Pray over the issue and interactions.
3. Invite someone else to the meeting (if appropriate).
4. Take a few moments to breath deeply.
5. Be kind, be firm, be honest, and be courageous (Fear of man is a snare – Fear of God leads to wisdom and peace)

Dr. Henry Thompson says, “Have emotions but don’t allow emotions to have you.
James 3-4 teaches about our tongues and worldliness.

Self-awareness:

Tone Policing is subconsciously learned social behavior. It is catechized through culture via various means (family, media, entertainment, etc). That does not excuse it. If you are not self-aware enough to understand you are manipulating someone, you are not mature enough for leadership.

Responding to Tone Police:

If you are on the receiving end, take a moment and assess yourself and the situation. Then tell the Tone Policeman that their ad hominem (personal) attack is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Expose the logical fallacy and offer them an opportunity to re-address the issue. If they continue to pull the Tone card, tell them you won’t be manipulated or entertain it any longer. Leave their presence. If they continue, report it to someone else in authority [Follow Matthew 18].

Tone Policing is Sin:

Tone Policing is a sin because it’s a manipulation of another human being. The cure is repentance before God and reconciliation with those manipulated and harmed.

Warning to Tone Police:

If you engage in Tone Policing, you run the risk of alienation from community, co-workers, and friends who you depend on. Back-sliding and destroying your Christian witness become growing risks.

Additionally, you run the risk of misreading scripture because you will read God’s Word through a lens of ‘tone.’ That is dangerously thin theological ice.

Someone will say, “But wait, Jesus He was kind and gentle. He used a compassionate tone.” True, but Jesus Christ offered stern words and harsh language without sinning.

Read the texts below, see if Jesus Christ would be pulled over by the Tone Police and given a Tone Ticket for speaking the truth in an off-putting, emotionally-charged tone.

Matthew 23:33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

Matthew 12:34-35 “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

From Luke:

11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces….

11:46 “And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers….”

11:52 “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

11:53-54 “As he (Jesus) went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.”

Warning from Luke:

12:1-3…. “[Jesus] began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

What is the Alternative to Tone Policing?

Listen and speak truth plainly, firmly and humbly as before the Lord. Try to discern truth even as you are being harshly criticized or confronted by an emotionally charged person. Remember, you are a Christian leader! You have a higher calling. If you are so insecure that you resort to Tone Policing, you need to choose another profession. Or you can Repent!!! Ask for forgiveness! Then, work towards restoration with others!

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!”
[Pslam 139:23-24]

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” [Proverbs 19:11]

In all things, charity.

The prophet is specially called to critique and challenge the people of God when they have forgotten or betrayed their original calling. Thus Moses confronted the people of God over the golden calf, Elijah over the prophets of Baal, Jesus over legalism and hypocrisy, Martin Luther over the distortion of faith, and Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer over the idolatry of nationalism. Such prophetic critiques were often delivered with outrage, but they were not denials of the chosenness of those attacked. On the contrary, the purpose of critique is restoration, not dismissal. The prophets were specially called and their prophetic messages were special calls to bring God’s people back to the original calling from which they had fallen away.
Os Guinness

The Call

You are worthy and valuable

The truth is the truth regardless if you believe it or not. You are very valuable! You have so many fine qualities. You are made in the image of God. Therefore, you have intrinsic value and worth. No one, not even you can change that reality. The truth is the truth regardless if you believe it or not.

The Lord put a word on my heart that I must share with you. Not sharing would be to deny water to the thirsty.

Someone needs to hear this today…

Several years ago, I’ll never forget I heard Pastor Dr. Greg Cook talk about how we’re all “self-deceived deceivers.” Spot on!

Since I was a small child, I struggled with a deep-seated sense of worthlessness. Perhaps it was my upbringing or a traumatic event I can’t remember. It was a lie I believed about myself and that lie shaped my life in many ways for many years. It led to chaos, destruction, and casualties in the lives of others. But, over the years, Christ delivered victory. To God be the Glory!

To a greater or lesser extent, we all believe lies about ourselves and our value as a human beings. We believe a deception, then we deceive ourselves, then we deceive others by putting up a facade. Finally, we believe the facade is the real us – forgetting who we are. The false notion becomes so real that our lives can be built on a lie we believed long ago. Many times, we’re not aware that we’re acting on a false belief about ourselves.

Maybe someone made you feel worthless at some point in your life. The devil got a foothold in your mind and breathed out lies that you believe to this day.

Dear Christ-follower,

DO NOT believe lies the devil or the world have told you to believe about yourself!

The TRUTH is, you are so very valuable! You have many fine qualities. You are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Therefore, you have intrinsic value and worth. No one, not even you, can change that reality. The truth is the truth regardless if you believe it or not. Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead for you. He took your sin and worthlessness upon himself. He gave you the crown of life and the keys to his Kingdom.

Ask the Lord to reveal to you the lies you believe about yourself. Ask him to use other Christian brothers and sisters who love you to help you see clearly and believe the truth. Repent of believing a lie and believe the Gospel. Preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to yourself each day and believe it!

Here are some truths to believe:

– In Christ, you are WORTHY because He is WORTHY! (Roman 8:17, Rev. 5:12) That is TRUTH!

– You have so many fine qualities, talents, gifts and beauty in who God made you to be. There is only one you! This is TRUTH!

– You are loved by the creator of the universe, who knitted you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139). This is TRUTH!

– You did not choose the circumstances of your birth but, God ordained them in His providence (Acts 17:26). This is TRUTH!

– Before the foundations of the world, the Lamb was slain for you (Rev. 13:8). This is TRUTH!

– Therefore, you were, you are and you always will be part of God’s Story (Eph. 2:8-10). This is TRUTH!

– It is NO accident you are on this earth. Today was and is in God’s plan for you. This is TRUTH!

If you have experienced victory in Christ over deep-seated feelings of worthlessness, praise Him afresh today! Now, help someone else experience that same victory. Encourage someone, tell someone they are valuable and they have many fine qualities.

You have the power to influence conversations tonight by how you serve and treat people in your life today. What is the story you want told this evening? …. Begin by telling it now.

Someone once said, “All of Christ for all of life!” Make it so, Lord!

Conquering the Madness of the Moment with God’s Story

God structured reality in such a way and embedded reality in his creation so that His image-bearers (humans) can apprehend it, albeit imperfectly. For sure, the fallen world, sin and broken lives distort and dim the good world God created. But, that is not the end of the story. It’s just a moment.

We live in an ever expanding crisis-centered culture.

Stress at home and at work, and free-floating anxiety are in the air. It seems like you can almost touch it. The world says, “just deal with it” as moments like waves pound you like an ocean storm. Some deal with stress and anxiety by indulging in excesses like drinking, eating, drugs, video games, social media scrolling, pornography, or other unhealthy activities. Some will fall into a pit of despair, depression, or apathy. Many barely make it through the day. It’s a chore to sleep at night. The alarm goes off in the morning shouting, “Wake up! Another crisis ensues!” It can be maddening.

I hear it and see it in the faces of people everywhere. It’s a problem.

The “Out of Control vs. Control” Problem

Most situations we face are completely out of our control. You can only control yourself and your responses – which is extremely difficult.

Out of My Control:

Are you helpless to do anything about a world on fire?

School shootings, natural disasters, wars, a traffic jam on the way to work, a serious health diagnosis, a family member making destructive decisions, an abusive boss, a flat tire, or the dying garden caused by the relentless Texas heat are examples of our limited control.

Don’t confuse the madness of the moment with the bigger story. Remember, we live in moments within a bigger story.

Open your newspaper or newsfeed. You come face to face with empirical evidence of evil, brokenness, and pain. Deep down you know what you’re seeing and experiencing is bad, it’s wrong, it’s cruel, it’s unjust! The madness of the moment militates against a deeper notion that the world is not supposed to be this way. Something is wrong.

Where did the notion that “the world and life are not supposed to be this way” come from?

C.S. Lewis said about his conversion from atheism to Christianity the following, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” (Lewis’s full quote below this post)

In other words, although we live in a world of brokenness and sin, God did not obliterate goodness, truth and beauty embedded in creation. In a fallen world things are disjointed, distorted and decaying. However, God structured reality in his creation so that His image-bearers (humans) can apprehend it, albeit imperfectly. The fallen world, sin, and broken lives distort and dim God’s good creation. But, that is not the end of the story. It’s just a moment.

By God’s mercy that we have “some idea of a straight line.” The “straight line” is God’s Story.

Within My Control:

Presuppositional truths of the Christian worldview – God’s Story:

1. God is… (God exists, whether one believes or not does not change reality of God’s existence)
2. God is the source of all goodness, truth and beauty…
3. God created all things…
4. God created all things good… (God is the source of good).
5. Sin entered creation because man chose to “be like God” and rebel against his creator…
6. Creation fell into the curse of brokenness, pain, decay and death…
7. But, God sent Jesus Christ to redeem people from sin and His creation from the curse…
8. God is setting right what sin sets wrong…
9. God is currently redeeming and will restore all things in the future…

How to Conquer the Madness of the Moment

Remember The Story
So, when you find yourself caught up in the madness of the moment, remember The Story. Out-narrate the moment with God’s bigger unstoppable redemptive story. It is The Story we inhabit. The Story can be described in four chapters; creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. The story of the Bible contains all other stories.

Did you choose the circumstances of your birth?

Of course not, we did not decide where, when, and to whom we were born. We were born into a cultural moment within God’s bigger Story.

Discover or Rediscover Your Calling
Every man or woman’s life mission is to seek out their unique role in The Story. Merely existing is NOT what life is all about. Escaping life’s troubles and pain through pleasure or distraction leads to meaninglessness, madness, and self-destruction.

God created you for this place and time to serve His purposes in this generation.

Those who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved!” (Roman 10:13) Those who God saves He calls into the biggest, truest and most beautiful Story ever told. God writes His Story with the lives of ordinary people just like you and me – moment by moment, one life at a time.

Reflect on the following:

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
– Isaiah 26:3

“Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service.” – Os Guinness

Note: Join me as I interview Os Guinness on August 8, 2022 at 7pmCT via live Zoom (ask your questions). Link…

“For the secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for.”
– Fyodor Dostoevsky

C.S. Lewis’s full quote from above:
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such a violent reaction against it?… Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if i did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus, in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never have known it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

Live Interview with Dr. Christopher Yuan (Holy Sexuality and the Gospel

On Tuesday, June 21, 2022 at 7pmCT, we hosted a live virtual Zoom event with Dr. Christopher Yuan, author of the book Holy Sexuality and The Gospel.

Watch the video recording – Link below.

We discussed identity and sexuality from a biblical perspective, how to reach and apply the essence of the gospel to a gay loved one, what Christ-followers can do to minister in to those struggling with same-sex attraction, the importance of prayer, and more.

Please SHARE this event within your spheres of influence.

Bio – Christopher Yuan
Dr. Christopher Yuan has taught the Bible at Moody Bible Institute for twelve years and his speaking ministry on faith and sexuality has reached five continents. He speaks at conferences, on college campuses, and in churches. He has co-authored with his mother their memoir, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope (100,000 copies sold and now in seven languages). He is also the author of Giving a Voice to the Voiceless. Christopher graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 2005 and received a master’s in biblical exegesis in 2007 and a doctorate of ministry in 2014. Dr. Yuan’s newest book, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story, was named 2020 Book of the Year for Social Issues by Outreach Magazine.

Dr. Leon and Angela Yuan have experienced much heartache from a broken marriage and their prodigal sons. But, God has given them the grace to rely upon His power to change the unchangeable and focus upon their own daily renewal and transformation. Learn more at www.christopheryuan.com

Resources mentioned: