Books That Rocked My World In 2012

As 2012 comes to a close, I can’t help looking back on the events of this last year. While things aren’t perfect, I do feel that I am in a better place than I was this time last year. I have grown a lot, and I believe that this is a direct result of all the reading I’ve been doing. In 2012, I read all kinds of works, from fantasy to classics to Christian. The books that I read in 2012 contributed greatly to my growth as a writer, as a Christian, and as a citizen of the world.

The Christian books I read really rocked my 2012. I’d like to share the books that I feel helped to shape my 2012, and will hopefully launch me into a great 2013.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan

This book was a slap in the face and a shot in the arm. In his book, Francis Chan challenges Christians to take a hard look at their relationship with God. He addresses lukewarm Christianity (if there is such a thing), and he invites readers to see God for who he truly is: holy, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, fair, and just. He invites readers to be genuinely awestruck when thinking of the God of the universe, and the fact that we can have relationship with him. He then goes on to encourage readers to do more. Christianity isn’t about saying a prayer and going to church once a week thereafter. It is about a passionate pursuit of God and going wholeheartedly after his plan.

The most challenging statement in this book is this one: “Jesus’ call to commitment is clear: He wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a ‘Christian’ without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd.” Throughout the book Francis Chan challenges the reader to make Jesus everything — absolutely everything — whatever it may look like.

This book really challenged me because I fit the profile of a lukewarm Christian perfectly. Truth be told, I am probably still not as passionate as I should be. However, this book did a great job of showing me my condition and starting me on the path to a passionate relationship with God.

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

The Pursuit of God is like a lens that focuses the reader’s attention on knowing and loving God. All of our attention should be focused on knowing God, apprehending God, seeing God. Early on Tozer states that we, too often, get caught up in “things” (perhaps Tozer was a minimalist) or even caught up in the good gifts that God gives. Tozer says that we must leave all the stuff behind and seek God wholeheartedly.

Like Chan, Tozer invites the reader to consider God in his majesty. He is eternal, immutable, and omniscient. He challenges the reader to seek God fervently. One of my favorite quotes from the book: “If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience God will manifest himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of his face.”

Greater by Steven Furtick

People often say that God’s plan for your life is always greater than your plan. Greater is all about seeking God’s greater plan. Steven Furtick walks the reader through the story of Elisha as he talks about the Greater life. The whole message of the book is that God can do greater things through us than we can imagine, and that nothing is impossible with him. A great quote: “God doesn’t do greater things exclusively through great people. He does them through anyone who is willing to trust him in greater ways.”

Steven Furtick encourages the reader to dream bigger, but start smaller. He urges the reader to get busy, even if it’s in a small way, and look to God for the next step. He talks about miracles and about trusting God to lead you, but he also addresses hard topics, like when the miracle doesn’t come.

For me, this book helped me to think differently about this phase of life. It offered encouragement during this time when it looks like nothing is happening for me. I have no idea what’s happening, but God expects me to show up anyway. Another great quote: “He will do the showing if you will do the going.” Greater reassured me that it’s ok to not know what’s going on, and that it is in these times that we need to trust God the most.

 

1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp

This was a hard one. The premise of this book is that you can live fully in the midst of the craziness of life. The secret lies in gratitude — giving thanks even when life is messed up.

Two things struck me really hard. First, ingratitude was the root of the first sin, and the fall of Lucifer before that. Lucifer wasn’t happy with his angelic position. Instead, he wanted to be God and revolted. He led Eve to sin by planting a seed of ingratitude in her heart. Ann Voskamp argues that ingratitude is at the base of every sin.

Second, Ann Voskamp demonstrates the thanksgiving always precedes the miracle. This was so with the Lord’s Supper, where Jesus gives thanks, breaks the bread, and then is crucified and raised from the dead. Similarly, when preparing to feed the multitudes with a few fishes and loaves, Jesus gives thanks first, and then the miraculous feeding takes place.

This book has challenged me to take my focus off all that is wrong with my life long enough to find what is right about my life. I have since started a gratitude journal, and like Ann Voskamp, I am on a mission to find 1,000 gifts from God in my own life.

 

Each of these books has challenged me in a different way. If you are looking for a challenge, pick up one of these books. Is there a book that has challenged you? I am looking to read 30 books in 2013, and I appreciate any recommendations. Please share in the comments.

Lessons From The Magi

In the spirit of Christmas I read Matthew’s narrative of Jesus’ birth in my study bible. This is a very familiar story in which wise men from the East come to see Jesus and worship him, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

Upon further reading, I learned that the wise men, or magi, traveled a great distance to see Jesus. Not only was their journey long, it was also very dangerous. Still, they came because they believed. When they found him, they gave precious gifts befitting a king.

What is our response to Jesus? Do we passionately and diligently seek him? What gifts do we offer him? The magi went on a long and dangerous journey to find Jesus so that they could worship him and offer their gifts — and they were pagan. Surely, we should show this kind of faith and devotion to Jesus.

In this busy holiday season, amid the shopping and the wrapping and the feasting, take time to seek him with the same passion that the wise men did. Go all out. Worship him as king, and live in his peace.

 Merry Christmas

Lessons From An Incredible Grandma

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths. 

Proverbs 3:5-6

The last few weeks have been difficult for my family. My grandmother became very ill and was confined to our home. She was battling breast cancer and started to have intense pain. It hurt to see her in so much pain. On December 4, 2012, she passed away.

When she passed we were immediately thrown into funeral preparations. We looked at caskets, flowers, and clothes. We sorted through pictures, wrote an obituary, and put together a funeral service. We moved through the tasks before us with heavy hearts and little sleep.

A week later, it still seems surreal. Sleep still doesn’t come easy, but I suppose things are improving. I went back to work yesterday. Though I am going through the motions, my mind keeps coming back to the fact that she was just here. I was just giving her medicine. I was just washing her face. We miss her already, and it will be an adjustment going forward without her.

In honor of my grandma, I’d like to share some lessons I learned from her.

Be generous. My grandma was not a minimalist in any way. She had lots of stuff. But she was incredibly generous with her stuff. She gave clothes and jewelry away all the time. Though she had a lot, she didn’t hold it tightly. Her hands were always open to give.

Money isn’t everything. I remember when I was considering marrying my boyfriend at the time. He had no money. She told me that if I loved him, I should marry him — even if he didn’t have any money. She said to trust the Lord. He could make a way for us and provide for us. We might have to work harder. We might have to go without some things.  But if we trusted God, he would help. She encouraged me to follow my heart instead of chasing financial status.

Honor God and he will honor you. She said this to me regularly. She taught me not to be ashamed to tell people that I am a Christian and that I go to church. She taught me to honor God by serving him at my local church. She encouraged me to give God credit for what he has done — no matter who was listening. She lived out these principles, and she was incredibly blessed.

There are soooo many things I learned from my grandma. I learned about cooking and sewing and bargain shopping. I learned that “right is right.” I could write for hours about her, but I will simply end by saying that my grandma was an amazing woman of God. We already miss her. But we know that she is with Jesus, and we rejoice because this separation is only temporary.