Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. Matthew 4:19-20 (NLT)
I was talking to a friend about some books I read recently, and he said, “Wow! You must be a speed reader.” I explained that while, yes, I do read fast, in the last few months, I have actually slowed myself down. Generally, I read fiction books and many times, start a book and find it so engrossing that I keep reading until it is finished even if it involves staying up all night. I do not often read nonfiction but lately have found myself drawn to it more and more. In August, I made a decision to chose a selection of nonfiction books and read one chapter a day. I set this goal to force myself to take the time to really read the work and then, reflect upon its meaning both for the world and for me personally. While sometimes, I have “cheated” and read a few chapters in one day, for the most part, I have stuck with my plan. I take notes as I read which not only slows me down, but also reinforces the message of the book. I am continuing this practice in 2014. For those of you who might also be interested, here are ten of my favorite reads from the last few months. Perhaps you might want to make a goal to read one per month for the rest of the year. In no particular order, here they are:
1. True Spirituality: Becoming a Romans 12 Christian by Chip Ingram-I really enjoyed the practicality of this book. This chapter in Romans is both eloquent and succinct. Ingram does a great job identifying ways that we can put it into practice.
2. Made To Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire by Lysa TerKeust-This thought provoking book is more than a get healthy or diet book. It takes us to the root of many of our health issues which is a craving for God that we try to satisfy with food or other measures.
3. The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel-Many times while reading this book, I felt like God was punching me in the stomach. The basic premise is, if I believe that there is a God who is all powerful, all knowing and all loving, then, why do I worry, fret and try to control everything in my life? Because we say we are Christians, but live like there is no God.
4. Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman-Follower or Fan? That is the question that this book asks as you learn the differences between following Jesus and merely liking Jesus. Idleman calls us to live all out for Jesus even when the going gets tough.
5. Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N.T. Wright-I have been a Christian for most of my life but sometimes, I struggle with feeling like maybe, I am following a myth. How can I explain my faith without seeming like a medieval mystic or a modern lunatic? This book outlines four ways that humans have always been seeking God and gives great detail on how Christianity is not only true but relevant for our everyday life.
6. The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken- By far one of the best nonfiction books I have read because it tells the true stories of Christians around the world who are being persecuted for their faith. The book requires you to read some hard lessons, but in the end, elevates your faith with the testimony of modern day martyrs who would not classify themselves as martyrs, but simply followers of Jesus.
7. Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith by Jen Hatmaker- Jen Hatmaker is much like me, raised in the church to be a good girl and do all the church things that good girls do. This book is her journey of discovery that Christ calls us to be more than good girls. He calls us to be servants and most often, that requires us to go beyond the places where good girls usually hang out.
8. Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott- We try to make praying more complicated than it need be. When it comes down to it, prayer is simply three words, help, thanks, and wow. This book advanced my understanding of prayer and encouraged me to pray more than any other “scholarly” book on prayer ever did. Just do it! Pray!
9. The Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in A Consumer Culture by Brandon Hatmaker- Jen Hatmaker’s husband, Brandon, shows how being like Christ should look in our modern day world. He gives practical ways that the church and believers can imitate Christ. I love the way that he and his fellow staff members think outside the box. Imagine cancelling Sunday morning services so that all the members of the congregation can hit the streets to serve the poor and needy!
10. All In: You are One Decision Away from a Totally Different Life by Mark Batterson- I started 2013 with Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle Maker, which was great book on prayer. But, All In is even better teaching that instead of sitting on our hands overwhelmed by the needs in our community and in the word, we need to choose just one thing and jump in to help. The book has great stories about how one person with one gift changed their part of the world simply by being willing to obey God and do what He asked.
Happy Reading! May the world be a better place because of you in 2015 than it was in 2013!