daily devotions

Our Top Reads of 2017


Reading has been referred to as "the gymnasium for the mind." As leaders, we can learn and grow so much from it. Both Pastor Gene and I love reading and hope to inspire you to take on some great books this year!

In this week's podcast, Pastor Gene and I are sharing with you our top reads of 2017. If you would like to purchase a copy of your own, simply click the book title. Let’s get started!

Pastor Kelly’s #3: Own the Moment by Carl Lentz

This was my most recent read. Carl Lentz is the pastor of the Hillsong New York Church and his book follows the many stories of his life and of his ministry. It is incredibly inspiring and honest. I took away many great principles from what Lentz shared, principles that I want to apply to my own life and ministry as a pastor.

For me, the most memorable story Lentz included was one of an experience he had while attending the Hillsong Bible College. He was asked to come up to the front of the class to pray but he was so terrified that he ran away and hid in the bathroom, even standing atop a toilet so that no one would know he was there. It was amazing to read that account from a man who is now being interviewed across America and has become one of the biggest spokespeople for the next generation church. It just shows that God can use anyone, anywhere, and that even though some of our heroes look like they have it all together, everyone has their struggles. God can use our greatest weaknesses for His glory! I think my favourite quote from the book would have to be when Lentz said, “I want to be a leader and a husband and a pastor who is so secure that I can love quickly, give generously, and forgive freely because I know where my life is anchored.”

Pastor Kelly’s #2: The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader’s Day by John Maxwell

This book is a devotional for leaders and is taken from John Maxwell’s book called The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership but is a Bible study. Maxwell takes the 21 laws and gives an example of a Biblical character, walking you through their process of mastering a particular law. I love that he takes a character and a law and gives you a week's worth of devotions for them. It allows you to meditate for a week on that law and put it into practice yourself. I’d highly recommend every pastor and leader get this devotional.

If I am honest, I have been bored of Maxwell’s books lately. Don’t get me wrong, he is one of my all-time favourite authors and no one compares to him when it comes to leadership. However, I have found a number of his latest books to be receptive of his earlier works and I didn’t get much out of them. But, this one was different. I found it refreshing, inspiring, and very very practical. I just wanted to get that out there just in case there were others that were feeling the same about Maxwell’s writing lately.

I think this book partners very well with The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. The devotional digs a little further into each law by giving an actual historical example through the Biblical characters. I think the 21 Laws book is one of the best leadership books ever written and would highly suggest you put it on the top of your reading list for 2018. And get Maxwell’s devotional to partner with it; the two of them will take your leadership to another level!

Pastor Gene’s #3: Instinct by TD Jakes

This one was a re-read for me. I decided to go through it again because I really appreciate the phrasing of Jakes’ thoughts. My favourite quote is about Jakes watching his children “unpack the inventory of their uniqueness”. I am still “unpacking my uniqueness,” as is Pastor Kelly.

Pastor Gene’s #2: Ted Talks by Chris Anderson & Spark and Grind by Erik Wahl

Ted Talks is one of my favourite websites. This book is about how the various speakers create their Ted Talks. It is very practical and references various talks that were challenging to the presenter. Everyone from Monica Lewinsky to Colin Powell.

Pastor Kelly read Talk like Ted which is one of his top picks for 2017 as well. It is one of the reasons our church has switched to 18-minute sermons on Sunday’s.

One of my main takeaways from Talk like Ted was the thought that “overstuffed” equals “under-explained”. Woodrow Wilson famously said, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Presenting just one idea and doing it well takes time. Richard Bach writes, “Great writing is all about the power of the deleted word.” I believe the same is true in speaking.

My second choice for the #2 slot is Spark and Grind by Erik Wahl. “Spark” refers to those “aha!” moments when we have an idea. “Grind” refers to “grinding an idea to the finish line.” We often face the problem of running with a good idea and ignoring better ideas that may come up along the way. Grinders are people who ignore better sparks along the way. We need to learn to do both; always expect new sparks and always be grinding ideas to their finish line. Our first idea is never the best because ideas grow. The point is to spark new ideas even while grinding our first idea to the finish line.

Pastor Gene’s #1: Resilience by Eric Greitens

This is an awesome book of letters from one Navy Seal to another. For Navy Seals, the frontline is where they live with purpose and experience victories and friendships, but also a place of fear, struggle, and suffering. Once out of their military service, they have to find a new purpose, similar to when people go through challenging times like divorce or addiction. Greitens challenges his friend that the words we say to ourselves are tools by which resilience is maximized.

He sites professional climbers and the discipline of packing well. Every tool has a purpose; a sleeping bag for sleeping, a lantern for light, gloves for protection etc. Every tool has a purpose and every tool has a weight. At sea level, an axe feels like a feather but at 12,000 feet, hours from the summit, an extra pound feels like an anvil. Words have value and the right words can right your balance. We have to carry what is essential and leave the rest behind. Thus the quote, “When we’re struggling, we need the right words in our mind.” Resilience is packed full of truths that line up with the Word of God but are freshly worded.

Pastor Kelly’s #1: Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch

This is not a new book, in fact, it’s been out for a while, but I got to it just last year. I think one reason I avoided it is the sheer size of the book: it’s quite a hefty read. I also didn’t know how much of it would apply to me. But, I found it to be a fascinating read and I took a bunch of practical principles from it that I could apply to my own leadership.

I think my ultimate top pick for #1 would have to be my new book coming out this year! It is called Six Anchors and is a 40-day devotional based on hope. Hebrews 6:19 says that “this hope will be an anchor for our souls.” The Amplified Bible defines that anchor as one that “cannot slip and it cannot break down under whatever pressure bears upon it.” So, I did a Bible study on the word hope and exactly where the Bible says we can place our hope that would not give out. I found six specific places where the Bible instructs us to place our hope, hence the name “Six Anchors”. My prayer is that it will help readers to locate (or relocate) their hope so that they can live life with the fullest confidence regardless of the circumstances surrounding them. The book certainly helped me with this as I wrote it. We hope to release it on Easter Sunday: April 1st, 2018. 

Motivation for Reading

I am addicted to reading. I think it is because as leaders, we are constantly faced with new problems and challenges. I find that I am always looking for new solutions and ideas to face the ever-changing challenges that come my way as a leader. It is one discipline that helps me refuel and re-fire for the future. It helps me stay solution focused instead of problem focused. I need it or I won’t survive as a leader.

The Word of God is the best read anytime and anywhere; it’s really our number one read at all times. 2018 is a great time to encourage people - and yourself - to read the Bible with fresh eyes and a fresh heart every time they pick it up. The Bible is alive and there has never been, and never will be, a book that can duplicate it. It comes partnered with the Holy Spirit who makes what was written in it thousands of years ago so alive for life today. It’s the lifeblood of every human, especially leaders, and most definitely for us pastors. We need it, not just as a preparation tool for our sermons, but as a life source for us personally. Why? Because it is in the Bible that we can hear from God the best and get His guidance to lead His church as the hope of the world on our God-given mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.

Entrepreneurial Leadership

The Entrepreneurial spirit is characterized by innovation and risk-taking. Entrepreneurs tend to be good at perceiving new business opportunities. They typically exhibit positive biases in their perception of possibilities and a pro-risk taking attitude. In ministry terms, we could call the gift of the Apostle as entrepreneurial. They are the ground breakers, the pioneers, the ones willing to take the risks to go first. I think entrepreneurs think differently than most.

How to Lead a Connect Group

This is an exciting week for me. I am launching my first book this Sunday, plus we are officially opening our fourth campus in Lloydminster, a city that straddles the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The book is called My Victory Starts Here and it is a 40 day devotional designed to set the foundation for what Christianity is all about. It’s a great resource for new believers and was written based on the discipleship program we have been running here at My Victory for the past 2 years. In that time we have led over 1000 people to Jesus and have been able to incorporate over half of them into the regular life of the church and ministry. We’re excited about the retention of new believers and even more excited about releasing this book now as a tool for our church members to use to lead their friends and family members to Christ and then be equipped disciple them.

The book is available for order now on my website, kellystickel.com or on amazon.ca.

The 40 day devotional will be accompanied by a 6 week new believers course that will take the form of a comfortable small group. We think that life change happens best in a small group setting and that the best way to make a disciple is through relationship. We didn’t want to create a classroom style new believers course. We wanted to create relational based disciples as we feel this is the best way to mature in Christ over the long term.

I want to give you an overview of how we do small groups, or as we like to call them connect groups. We want to avoid the typical bible studies or small groups that has one predominate teacher who does all of the talking. Instead, we want to create discussion groups that are based on relationships and biblical discussion.

Here is what we encourage our group leaders to do:

  1. Encourage _________________.

  2. Ask great _________________.

  3. Cultivate _________________.

  4. Be _________________.

Our suggested meeting schedule:

  1. _________________ time (10 minutes)

  2. _________________ (10 minutes)

  3. _________________ (18 minutes)

  4. _________________ (5 minutes)

  5. _________________ (45 minutes) a. _________________ does is say? b. _________________ do you think it means? c. _________________ do we do about it?

  6. _________________ (10 minutes)

Episode Resources:

The Secret to Exponential Growth

Pastors, what if I could give you a secret that would increase the income in your church by 416%? What if I could guarantee a way to increase your parishioners sharing their faith with others by 228%? What if the same secret would be a key to increasing the discipleship in your church by 231%? Would you be interested? Do I have your attention, yet? Bible_Reading_Guy

These numbers are taken from a study conducted by the Center for Bible Engagement released in August 2012. It was a survey conducted on the Key to Spiritual Growth. You can find the survey at www.centerforbibleengagement.org. The secret? These astounding numbers were caused by simply increasing the number of times individuals read the Bible in a week. The results showed a dramatic climb in spiritual growth and just as dramatic decreases in struggles and bad habits if an individual would engage in the Bible 4 times a week or more!

This begs a question be asked. If simply increasing the number of times a week an individual reads the Bible can have such a dramatic effect on their lives and on the life of a church, how do we encourage our parishioners to engage more in the Word?

You see, I think we have a major problem in our churches. For the most part, our programs and systems are producing lazy, dependent Christians. They are so dependent on Pastors and Teachers feeding them the Word, that they have stopped feeding themselves. There is nothing wrong with being fed from great preachers, I make a habit of listening to 2-4 sermons a week myself. However, I've noticed that over the last few decades there has been a steady decline in the emphasis of daily devotions and personal Bible study. More and more, I am finding believers who struggle with a daily routine of reading the Word. Yet, such a habit can be life changing. Just read the above survey and read the results yourself!

But we don't need a survey to tell us these things. The Bible, itself tells us the same. Look what James wrote in James 1:25.

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

James tells us there are 4 things we need to do if we desire to be blessed in all that we do.

  1. We need to READ the Word intently. (whoever looks intently in the perfect law) What if we helped our parishioners engage in daily reading plans? It could change their lives!
  2. We need to REVIEW the Word. (and continues in it) Reviewing the Word is studying the Word. It's a step deeper than just reading. One of the best ways to examine the Word and study it is by engaging in meaningful discussion with others. What if we helped our people establish small groups to do just that, discuss and study the Word together?
  3. We need to REMEMBER the Word. (not forgetting what they heard) One of the most significant spiritual practices is Bible memory. Quoting verses like Jesus did to his tempter, is one of the best ways to overcome temptation. The only way to do that is through memorization. What if we encouraged people to memorize a verse a week?
  4. We need to RESPOND to the Word. (but doing it) This is an active faith. What if we created opportunities for our people to act on the Word they've just been taught?

These steps and corresponding questions are something me and my staff are discussing right now. We are trying to discover the best way to encourage Bible engagement among our people. Because we believe, as the Bible tells us that it is the best way for them to be blessed in what they do.

Question: How many times a week do you read the Bible personally?

The Miracle Cure

miracle_cure If I told you I had discovered a pill, that if you took it daily, would transform every area of your life, would you want to know more? What if I could prove to you that people who took the pill 4 times a week or more, decreased their odds of giving in to the following temptations:

  • Overeating or mishandling food decreased by 20%
  • Gambling decreased by 45%
  • Having sex outside of marriage decreased by 59%
  • Viewing pornography decreased by 59%
  • Neglecting family decreased by 26%
  • Lies decreased decreased by 28%
  • Lashing out in anger decreased by 31%
  • Drinking to excess decreased by 62%
  • Gossiping decreased by 28%
  • Overspending or mishandling money decreased by 20%

But that's not all of it. Studies have shown that people who took the pill 4 times a week or more decreased their odds of struggling with the following issues as well:

  • They had 32% lower odds of thinking destructively about self or others
  • They had 18% lower odds of thinking unkindly about others
  • They had 60% lower odds of feeling spiritually stagnant
  • They had 44% lower odds of feeling they can't please God
  • They had 30% lower odds of experiencing loneliness
  • They had 40% lower odds of feeling bitter
  • They had 31% lower odds of having difficulty forgiving others
  • They had 26% lower odds of having difficulty forgiving themselves
  • They had 32% lower odds of feeling like they had to hide
  • They had 31% lower odds of feeling discouraged
  • They had 14% lower odds of experiencing fear or anxiety

Would you be interested? Do you want to know where you can get this miracle cure?

The truth is, most of you already have the cure in your home. The problem is, most of us don't take it enough. The studies show that the greatest results happen when individuals increased their intake to 4 or more times a week or more. So what is the miracle cure?

It's the Bible.

That's right. An organization called Back to the Bible conducted a number of surveys over the last few years and the results I listed above are the real numbers they found for people who read their Bible 4 times a week or more! You can access the study yourself by clicking HERE.

These results shouldn't shock us. The authors of the Bible told us as much.

Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32) He promised freedom would come in our lives if we continued in His Word. That's the secret. The secret to freedom is the daily habit of reading His Word.

King David said, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11) King David discovered that when he read the Word and meditated on it so that it would take root in his heart, that he sinned less. Again, that's what the studies prove. Those who daily read the Word found their struggles with temptation substantially decreased. It truly is the miracle cure!

If you are feeling trapped by a specific temptation and can't seem to get free, try reading the Word daily and watch how easily you will get free of your struggle. In fact, I would encourage you to visit www.settingcaptivesfree.com and find a daily Bible study that is specific to your temptation. I have assigned this website to many, many people who have come to me for help with a specific temptation. And without exception, those who followed through with the study were set free. The results are 100% guaranteed. The Word is the key.

Question: I have signed up with YouVersion.com for a daily Bible reading plan. Will you join me? Will you join the challenge to read the Word daily?