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.