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!
I went to the local Walmart Supercenter today to pick up some medicine. As I was walking to find an available cashier, I found that the closest cash register that was open was the tobacco aisle. I thought that perhaps I should progress further to another line which was at the far end of the store. I would not want someone I minister to thinking that I smoke; I thought of my moral authority. Truth be told, there was a time span of a few years where I actually did smoke. I was very addicted and very much struggled with attempt after attempt to quit. Patches, prescriptions, gum and lozenges could not help me. When I put it in the hands of God, it was the Holy Spirit who helped me to overcome this addiction without any other aid. Nonetheless, I was feeling this great burden to take my medication to the tobacco aisle checkout.
There was a lady in front of me in line, and there was a gentleman checking out his purchases. He was giving the cashier a lot of grief. The cashier was talking with a pleasant voice and just oozing kindness. The man on the receiving end responded with bitterness and anger. Nothing was right for him. The cashier was getting flustered. After much time, the gentleman was finished and the cashier said, “Merry Christmas” as he was leaving. Then the lady that stood in line in front of me was ready to be served. This customer was demonstrating a lack of interest in the cashier. She just wanted to get out of the store by the look of things. The lady never responded to the cashier; she didn’t seem to want to be bothered. After a negative comment whispered under her breath, the lady began walking off. Once again, the cashier chimed, “Merry Christmas.“ Finally, it was my turn. I noted her name is Dottie. She was smiling despite being on the receiving end of so much grief. She provided excellent customer service. We spoke a little, and before I departed, the cashier, Dottie, was so grateful that she grabbed my hand and said, “Merry Christmas.”
Kindness and love can be shared in the simplest of ways. It is so sad that during the Christmas season, we see so many people out and about being miserable to others. We fight and bump our shopping carts simply trying to get the best deal on gifts to give to celebrate Christmas. We rush around driving and cut people off because we have a list of stores we want to visit to get the best bargains for these Christmas gifts. It seems as if we gather up as much stress as possible during the holiday season, rather than simply celebrate the birth of our Saviour. As we get closer to the big day, Christmas Day, I pray that you are able to feel the joy, the true joy of Christmas— and to spread that joy to others. There are too many bah-humbugs running about. Lets show people Jesus!
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”
– 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 [NLT]