Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bookshelf Treasures: 5 Must Reads, Should Reads, & Planned Reads For This Year

I’m often asked what I like to read.  Hands down, I prefer Christian non-fiction books that build into my life and help advance my walk with Jesus.  Once or twice a year, when it’s time to power down for some R&R, I’ll throw in a fiction book as well - frequently young adult or Christian fiction. 

I tend to read deliberately and at a slow pace so that I can absorb what I’m reading and, when possible, apply it as I move through the author’s message. Since that’s become my practice, I choose fiction works carefully. What I read stays in my heart and mind even longer than what I watch on a screen, so I veer toward G to PG-rated, pure-in-heart material. 

My favorite works are those that are immediately applicable - those that make an impact on my thought life and daily decisions as soon as possible. 

I don’t like to borrow books because it takes me a while to finish a good read, and by the time I’m finished it’s marked up with notes, highlights, and page folds. I’ll generally carry a book with me wherever I go and the covers of my favorites get pretty beat up and ugly. If you offer to loan me a book and I decline, please understand why. I’m trying hard to respect your property. :)   

Below are several books that I recommend and a few I look forward to reading (descriptions in blue italics are from for each title as of 1/17/16): 

“Must Reads” for This Year:

1) The Bible

This is the baseline of truth and life change for those who follow Christ. The HCSB has become my favorite translation, but I also enjoy NASB and ESV.  It’s possible to read the entire Bible in one year by devoting just 15-20 minutes per day. 

2) Believing God - Beth Moore

This is available as a trade book and a Bible study with DVD or audio teaching.  I highly recommend every option you can get your hands on. 

"Is it working? Your belief system, that is. Is it really working? God's intention all along has been for the believer's life to work. From divine perspective toward terrestrial turf, God meant for his children to succeed. . . Are our Christian lives successful? Are they achieving and experiencing what Scripture said they would? In a recent sermon my son-in-law preached, Curt told us the only way we were going to impact the world and the next generation is to prove that our faith in Christ is real and that it works. For countless Christians I'm convinced it's real. My concern is whether or not we have the fruit to suggest it works.” - Beth Moore

3) Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life - Donald S. Whitney

If you are looking to draw near to God and develop practices that will help you grow to recognize His presence, this book is for you!

Drawn from a rich heritage, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life will guide you through a carefully selected array of disciplines. By illustrating why the disciplines are important, showing how each one will help you grow in godliness, and offering practical suggestions for cultivating them, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life will provide you with a refreshing opportunity to become more like Christ and grow in character and maturity. Now updated and revised to equip a new generation of readers, this anniversary edition features in-depth discussions on each of the key disciplines.

4) Enemies of the Heart - Andy Stanley

Recognizing how 4 emotions wreak havoc in our lives inspires the pursuit of freedom to overcome.  Andy provides practical helps to finding victory. 

The difficult circumstances you are dealing with today are likely being fed by one of four emotional forces that compels you to act in undesirable ways, sometimes even against your will. 

Andy Stanley explores each of these destructive forces—guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy—and how they infiltrate your life and damage your relationships. He says that, left unchallenged they have the power to destroy your home, your career, and your friendships.

In Enemies of the Heart, Andy offers practical, biblical direction to help you fight back, to take charge of those feelings that mysteriously control you, and to restore your broken relationships. 

5) Finding Joy in the Journey: Savoring the Fruit of the Spirit - Cathy McIntosh

Okay - this is slightly self serving, but it wouldn’t be right to leave my own book off of the list. There’s never been a more life changing experience for me than learning the truths that God showed during life challenges.  I pray this book will profoundly touch your life and help you learn to recognize and embrace God’s best.

Do you have those days ... or even seasons of life ... when joy seems elusive or impossible to grasp? God's Word makes it clear that He provides the gift of joy to each of His children. Cathy McIntosh (Author, Speaker, and Ministry Leader) shares Biblical truths and practical tips to embrace God's very best in life. She reveals why struggles common to many women, such as fear, worry, shame, trials, and confusion, cannot steal our foundational, divinely-given joy. This book and included Bible study are perfectly suited for individual or group use. Come embark on the journey to experience joy on a daily basis, regardless of circumstances.

“Should Reads” to Enjoy Soon

1) The Noticer - Andy Andrews 

I’ve read several books by Andy Andrews and enjoy each one.  Technically I suppose this one is fiction, but the life lessons are real and relevant.  

Like The Traveler’s Gift, The Noticer is a unique narrative is a blend of fiction, allegory, and inspiration.  Gifted storyteller Andy Andrews helps us see how becoming a “noticer” just might change a person’s life forever.

2) The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts - Gary Chapman

This is a simple and phenomenal help for relationships that you can put into practice and see results today. 

In the #1 New York Times bestseller The 5 Love Languages, you’ll discover the secret that has transformed millions of relationships worldwide. Whether your relationship is flourishing or failing, Dr. Gary Chapman’s proven approach to showing and receiving love will help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner—starting today.

The 5 Love Languages is as practical as it is insightful. Updated to reflect the complexities of relationships today, this new edition reveals intrinsic truths and applies relevant, actionable wisdom in ways that work.

3) Soul’s Gate - James L. Rupert (fiction)

This is one of my favorite fiction works. It verges on spiritual sci-fi (without a lot of sci-) and keeps my heart racing.  

“Every now and then we get a break from reality. A glimpse into the other world that is more real than the reality we live in 99 percent of our days. The Bible is about a world of demons and angels and great evil and even greater glory.”

“Readers with high blood pressure or heart conditions be warned: this is a seriously heart-thumping and satisfying read that goes to the edge, jumps off, and 'builds wings on the way down.'” —Publishers Weekly

4) When Godly People Do Ungodly Things - Beth Moore

Spiritual warfare is a perpetual reality and this book helps me see things from a heavenly perspective. 

It is reported in the headlines, confessed in the pulpits, and hidden in the pews in churches around  the world. The seduction of God’s people by the deceiver is a tale as old as the garden, but we are always surprised when it happens. We must realize that Satan is a lion on the prowl and we are his prey.

Beth writes with a passion fueled by the Biblical warnings of the schemes of Satan’s seductive activity and the broken-hearted concern of a teacher who receives countless letters from repentant Christians limping on the road to finding restoration. Delivering dire warnings to Christians to safeguard themselves against Satan’s attacks, Beth also reveals how you can know if someone is vulnerable. Beth writes, “We, Christ’s church, are in desperate need of developing His heart and mind in issues like these.” She fears that often God is far more merciful than the Body of Christ is with the deeply repentant and those desperate to find their way home. When Godly People Do Ungodly Things will be a guide to authentic repentance and restoration.

5)  Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire - Jim Cymbala

This book poured new fuel on my passion for prayer. 

The Times Are Urgent
God Is on the Move
Now Is the Moment to …

ask God to ignite his fire in your soul! 

Pastor Jim Cymbala believes that Jesus wants to renew his people—to call us back from spiritual dead ends, apathy, and lukewarm religion.

Cymbala knows the difference firsthand. Thirty-five years ago his own church, the Brooklyn Tabernacle, was a struggling congregation of twenty. Then they began to pray … God began to move … street-hardened lives by the hundreds were changed by the love of Christ … and today they are more than ten thousand strong.

The story of what happened to this broken-down church in one of America’s toughest neighborhoods points the way to new spiritual vitality in the church and in your own life. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire shows what the Holy Spirit can do when believers get serious about prayer and the gospel. As this compelling book reveals, God moves in life-changing ways when we set aside our own agendas, take him at his word, and listen for his voice.

Books I plan to read this year:

1) Mission Drift - Peter Greer and Chris Horst

This is recommended reading for a non-profit board I’m part of.  It gives a big picture view of how decisions we make today can impact generations of ministry. 

Without careful attention, faith-based organizations drift from their founding mission. 

It's that simple. It will happen. 

Slowly, silently, and with little fanfare, organizations routinely drift from their purpose, and many never return to their original intent. Harvard and the YMCA are among those that no longer embrace the Christian principles on which they were founded. But they didn't drift off course overnight. Drift often happens in small and subtle ways. Left unchecked, it eventually becomes significant. 

Yet Mission Drift is not inevitable. Organizations such as Compassion International and InterVarsity have exhibited intentional, long-term commitment to Christ.

Why do so many organizations--including churches--wander from their mission, while others remain Mission True? Can drift be prevented? In Mission Drift, HOPE International executives Peter Greer and Chris Horst tackle these questions. They show how to determine whether your organization is in danger of drift, and they share the results of their research into Mission True and Mission Untrue organizations. Even if your organization is Mission True now, it's wise to look for ways to inoculate yourself against drift. You'll discover what you can do to prevent drift or get back on track and how to protect what matters most.

2) Kitchen Table Counseling: A Practical and Biblical Guide for Women Helping Others - Muriel Cook and Shelly Cook Volkhardt

A fellow Women’s Ministry Leader recommended this and I’ve read about 1/3 of it so far. It’s been a great help in ministering to hurting hearts. 

This lay-ministry counseling guide is a good leader resource for women’s ministries or personal use. Learn how to address your own needs so you can effectively help others, take people to Jesus without taking on responsibility for their burdens, and balance a counseling ministry with your other priorities. With Kitchen Table Counseling, you can offer true biblical hope to other women in the face of heartaches.

3) Fervent - Priscilla Shirer

You have an enemy . . . and he’s dead set on destroying all you hold dear and keeping you from experiencing abundant life in Christ. What’s more, his approach to disrupting your life and discrediting your faith isn’t general or generic, not a one-size-fits-all. It’s specific. Personalized. Targeted. 

So this book is your chance to strike back. With prayer. With a weapon that really works. Each chapter will guide you in crafting prayer strategies that hit the enemy where it hurts, letting him know you’re on to him and that you won’t back down. Because with every new strategy you build, you’re turning the fiercest battles of life into precise strikes against him and his handiwork, each one infused with the power of God’s Spirit. 

New York Times bestselling author Priscilla Shirer, widely known for her international speaking, teaching, and writing ministries, brings her new role from the 2015 film War Room into the real lives of today’s women, addressing the topics that affect them most: renewing their passion, refocusing their identity, negotiating family strife, dealing with relentless regrets, navigating impossible schedules, succeeding against temptation, weathering their worst fears, uprooting bitterness, and more. Each chapter exposes the enemy’s cruel, crafty intentions in all kinds of these areas, then equips and encourages you to write out your own personalized prayer strategies on tear-out sheets you can post and pray over yourself and your loved ones on a regular basis. 

Fervent is a hands-on, knees-down, don’t-give-up action guide to practical, purposeful praying.

4) The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands - Lysa TerKeurst

Are you living with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule and aching with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul? 

Lysa TerKeurst is learning that there is a big difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God. In The Best Yes she will help you:

Cure the disease to please with a biblical understanding of the command to love.
Escape the guilt of disappointing others by learning the secret of the small no. 
Overcome the agony of hard choices by embracing a wisdom based decision-making process. 

Rise above the rush of endless demands and discover your best yes today.

5) Untangled - Carey Scott

All women want to feel is valued. But problems arise when we seek confirmation that we are enough using the world's standards. Almost from birth, we are trained to find the approval and acceptance we crave in the eyes of family, friends, and even strangers. The result is that we cannot believe we are who God says we are--accepted, loved, beautiful, and treasured. We get tangled up in the world's assessment and our own self-judgment.

With hope-filled writing and plenty of hard-won personal advice, Carey Scott shows women how to untangle their self-esteem from the world and anchor it in Jesus. She lovingly shows readers that God was intentional in how he made them and that he is well pleased with his work. Women will learn practical strategies to escape unattainable standards and the performance-based measuring stick of the world, and find comfort in the fact that they are not alone on the journey.

There you go!  A  glimpse at my reading list: past, present and future!   I’d love to hear which books you consider favorites - and why they’re at the top of your list!

Please comment below or leave some of your favorites on Facebook or Twitter.

Be Strengthened Today, By the Word,

Psalm 119:28


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