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!
In Exodus 12, the people are given instructions: “be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in hand” (v. 11 NLT). They were getting dressed for travel. These people were slaves, slaves that were not allowed to leave due to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. But God was preparing the Israelites for the Lord’s Passover. God promised that they would soon be leaving.
Getting dressed for travel was an act of faith, trusting that God truly was going to do as He said. Are you dressed for travel? Are you prepared to do whatever God has called you to do? Are you believing the promises of God? The Word of God?
We might not need to have sandals on and a walking stick in hand, but we should always be prepared to walk in faith. Trusting God—trusting His Word, His character, His promises—that’s faith. Believing Him. And the only way you can believe Him is to know Who He is and what He promises. That requires prayer. That requires reading His Word. So are your sandals on? Are you ready?
“These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the LORD’s Passover.” – Exodus 12:11 [NLT]
I had an important meeting so I went through the motions of getting ready. I selected a suitable outfit. I had everything prepared. I got everything complete and went to the car to head to the appointment. About halfway there I had a horrible question in my mind—a question that many of us ask at one time or another. Did I put on my deodorant? Then I visually went through my previous actions in my head and concluded that I neglected one of the most important things. I then began plan B—praying that I would not sweat so much in the 95 degree temperatures.
Some of us have had the good fortune to require a pit stop to a convenience store or department store to pick up some deodorant because we forgot one of the most important steps of the morning routine. Some of us do not realize it until everyone can realize it. But there’s something that we too often miss that is most important—spending some daily time with God.
Now God wants to be a part of your life 24/7 which means that we don’t give Him ten minutes in the morning and that is that; however, we should dedicate some quiet time each day in the morning to begin the day. Start out with God and continue the day with God. There’s no better way. I’d rather miss the deodorant than miss time with the Lord. The same goes for my coveted cup of morning coffee. Start your day with Him—continue it with Him—finish it out with Him! Now that’s a good day!
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” – Mark 1:35 [NIV]
Recently when I was teaching, a student chimed up saying that her Bible didn’t say the same thing that the reader shared with the group. I explained to her that there are different translations of the Bible so that anyone can find a Bible that they can understand. The Bible has been translated in numerous languages as well as in numerous translations like the New International Version, the New Living Translation, the King James Version, the New King James Version, the Message, the Revised Standard Version… I could continue, but I think you get the point.
I know that there are some areas where it is hard to access a Bible, where people risk their lives to deliver Bibles to people. But things aren’t like that here and yet some people neglect the Word of God. There are homes you enter where various Bibles are sitting throughout the house, but none are touched. Bookstores have shelves of Bibles. The Salvation Army and other organizations hand out free Bibles. Bibles are given as gifts for birthdays, Christmas, Easter, etc. Yet some people neglect the Word of God. It just sits and collects dust.
Today I pray that you’ll be encouraged to seek the Lord diligently and devote yourself to daily Bible reading. I pray that a Bible won’t be part of the décor of your home or some gift you really wish you could exchange. To think there are people across the globe who would die for a Bible. It really puts things in perspective. The Word is bread. We need bread to live. Let us eat!
“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” – Matthew 4:4 [NIV]
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” – 2 Timothy 3:16 [NLT]
Learning God’s lessons for our lives includes:
1. Bible Reading