As I wait for my pork and sauerkraut to finish and usher in 2019 with the official family tradition, I look back over 2018 and the books I read that helped me to run the race with more passion and more grace, as God continues to grow me and make me into who I’m meant to be for His glory. If you want to grow, reading is a must!
We are all one Body, and our brothers and sisters have gleaned a lot to share with us that can be helpful on our walk with Jesus.
These are the top 7 books I’ve read in 2018:
The Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero and The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero are both books that have changed me in too many ways to mention. I listen often to Scazzero’s podcasts. Scazzero strips away the noise of the world and points us to the stillness of God, and our need to be connected to our Father in silence and solitude. The Emotionally Healthy Leader is the leadership book that reminds us that before we can add anything to our lives to help us be a better leader, we must first draw near to our Creator. Our foundation should be on Jesus Christ, on the Word, and everything should flow from abiding in Him. Once we find ourselves spending time with God, we live from His presence, His truth, His grace, love and mercy. If we attempt to do anything else without this foundation, we miss out on what He always meant for us to have— a relationship with Him! The Emotionally Healthy Spirituality is a similar book with a similar teaching. The focus takes us into a more in depth look as us as individuals with God. We each have a need to draw near to our Maker and drink from the Spiritual Milk He provides. We are reminded that the past, the worldly noise— these things keep us from moving further in our walk. We take steps forward when our eyes are open to the wall of truth that we try to avoid. Just as Moses must veil his face after being in the presence of the Lord, we find ourselves leaving these books with a fresh encounter of His glory. Things are different. Life moves a bit more slower. God speaks a bit more louder. Or maybe we are just finally taking time to listen.
His Name, Salvation: A Collection of Essays to Edify Faith by Corby Shuey is a beautiful collection of essays that are evidence of much time spent diving deep into the Word of God and an ongoing journey of faithful obedience to serve our Father. Shuey speaks God’s Truth as one who has dealt with personal conviction and swam in the ocean of grace. He challenges readers to see the Truth in their own walk with Jesus Christ. He notes that there “has to be more to our faith than this simple repetition of obligations.” With each essay, we are pointed to the Word of God, we are encouraged to seek out God’s Truth, and reach for what has been missing in our faith journey. Shuey speaks about his own time spent “straddling the border between the desert and the promise.” Readers are reminded by Shuey of their own struggles with faith as they are reminded of “the noise of our own voices (which) drowns out the symphonic uttering of God’s voice through creation.” In this collection of essays, Shuey encourages us to quiet our own voices, to draw near to God, and to see clearly our error in worshipping God with a mask we have placed upon Him. We are left to reconcile our misteps in faith through repentance of sin and reverence for our Holy God.
Letters to the Church by Francis Chan is an eye opening book, one that cannot be pushed aside and forgotten. The book warrants a response. Readers are encouraged to open their eyes wide to where the Church is now, and how we have gotten far away from the road we were meant to travel. We are reminded of the Early Church, of simplicity, of connection, of what the Church is meant to be— and it leaves us with a need to respond. This is not a book to shame people to change their local church; Chan simply shares his insights from his personal walk and life of ministry. Nonetheless, the book leaves readers with an opportunity to look with more focused eyes at the local church and to be more intentional with ministry.
The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler is a game changing book that takes readers back to the beautiful, amazing, sweetness of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Readers are reminded of the Gospel— the true Gospel that we so often drift away from as we try to preach and live out our own interpretation of the Good News. We must wipe away anything we have added to the Gospel and take a step back to drench ourselves in the greatness of the Good News— the Gospel that cannot be changed, rewritten, or added to by mere man. We recognize that the Gospel has already been written, already been preached, and already been lived— and He is our precious Jesus. Let us share Him!
All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir by Brennan Manning is a phenomenal book. It is a book that was oozing of grace, reminding readers that we so often put on our Pharisee robes and forget that we, too, need Jesus— that we too are sinners saved by grace. Readers are left understanding that they fool themselves into thinking they are not “too bad” and they open their eyes to the truth, and freshly drink from the overflowing well of grace poured out by our Savior.
Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson is a fantastic book that helps you to understand that God speaks in many ways, including some ways we so often forget. The book leaves readers drawing near to God to hear— to listen— to want more of Jesus, and less of ourselves. Readers grow in their hearing ability and find themselves pausing to hear the still small voice.
As you enter into 2019, continue to draw near to God. He promises that as we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). What an amazing promise! Continue to dig deep into the Word of God, and read books written by those who have spent time with God— who can share their own testimony and what they have gleaned from the Spirit.
Blessings for 2019! God is good! Always!
Happy New Year!
My daughter loves to sketch and paint. She has a lot of talent. Yes, I’m biased but you can look for yourself. Talent can get you so far in life, but experience is always necessary. God gives us all talents, but He also takes us through many experiences in life to grow us to properly use our talent.
In Exodus 18 and Deuteronomy 1, we read of the leader selection process in the Old Testament. Listed character traits include those who fear God, who are honest, who are wise, who are understanding, and who are EXPERIENCED. The wisdom and the understanding comes as we continue to fear God and walk with Him. The experiences of life, the dark valleys and high mountains of life that God leads us through, teach us and stretch us. It is through experience that we become more capable.
Each of us are leaders. We are created to be leaders. But we aren’t where we are meant to be in life, and we certainly aren’t the leaders we could be to those we lead. Allow God to use you where you are at right now. Keep your ears and eyes open. Ask for Him to use you. Don’t be selective. Allow the Spirit to lead you. Serve where He places you. Soak up the experience. Glean from what He has placed before you. God wants to teach you. He wants to raise you up. Don’t let yourself get in the way. To be a better leader in your home, at church, in your workplace, on the field, you need to humble yourself as a servant of Christ, and forever remember that He both qualifies you and places you. Always stay focused on Him; always point to Him.
“But select capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain–and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” – Exodus 18:21 [NIV]
“Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.” – Deuteronomy 1:13 [ESV]
It is very easy to change your clothes to appear different. Many people have clothing for different events and situations. We have our work clothing, our casual clothing, our dress clothing, etc. But changing your clothing does not change you. It only changes your appearance to make you more comfortable in your environment, to help you blend in, to keep you hot/cool, or to follow some dress code requirement at work or school.
In Joel we read the need to change your life. You cannot simply change the outer appearance and think you have accomplished what God was after. God wants your heart. God wants you to have a pure heart. You can easily change your clothing and attend church and think you’ve done what was required of you. Yet your heart could be without change—the outside was changed but the inside remained the same.
Today is the day to look deep within and ask yourself if there has been a change. Have you just changed clothing? Have you simply sought a “Christian” radio station and changed your appearance? Have you started to attend church every Sunday so you can say you went to church? Or have you changed? Do you see something different about yourself? Are you more joyful? Are you more hopeful? Are you more helpful? Are you nicer? Do you act with more compassion? Are you after truth? If you aren’t seeing one bit of change, chances are you have just changed your clothes.
“Change your life, not just your clothes.
Come back to God, your God.
And here’s why: God is kind and merciful.
He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot,
This most patient God, extravagant in love,
always ready to cancel catastrophe.”
-Joel 2:13 [MSG]