Looking back on the year 2020, I would like to take a moment to review and reflect on the various books I read throughout the past year.
Every year, I try to read as many books as I can in one calendar year. My goal is to read as many, or more, books as the year before.
For the last couple of years, I’ve tried to read only one book at a time so I could focus on one topic, then move onto the next. Those guardrails helped me read, and retain, more throughout the year. Now that I am more disciplined when it comes to setting aside time for reading, I have adjusted those parameters and I now often find myself with two books going at once. My problem in the past is that there were a lot of books I wanted to read, so I’d partially read a lot of books, but finish very few. My reasoning for going back to multiple books at once has changed this year.
In 2020, I found myself waiting in the car a lot. I did a lot more grocery store pickups, more waiting in parking lots for food orders to be brought out, waiting in the car at the dentist to be called in for my appointment, etc. This past year brought about a lot of strange changes. Sitting in parking lots for long periods of time was one of them. The advantage of this is that I had a lot more time to read. My solution was to keep a book in the glove box! That helped me pass the time, as well as increase my books read per year count.
With so many stores and businesses shut down, gatherings cancelled, and events postponed, I anticipated that I would have a lot of time to spend reading books in 2020. I figured with “stay at home” orders and no businesses opened to visit anyway, the only thing I would have to do all day was sit around and read. That was determined to be a lie! I did spend a lot more time at home, but so did my kids. Therefore, I spent a lot more time building castles out of blocks, playing dress up, and distributing snacks than I did reading, and I regret none of it!
I also took some of my own advice from “While I’m Waiting” and tried to use my time wisely by learning new skills such as woodworking, doing some home improvement projects, and making the most of my time with my family. Rather than reading more books this year than the year prior, I focused more on other positive and important tasks. While I read fewer books, I read more of the Bible than I ever have, something I found to be more important than ever.
Anyway, let’s get to the list! The following is a list of all the books I read in 2020, along with a brief summary, and maybe a review, of some of the ones that stood out to me most.
It has become somewhat of a trend to compare the United States to Nazi Germany in recent years. Such comparisons are not always accurate and are used mostly to attack one political figure or praise another. Published over ten years ago, “When a Nation Forgets God” helps the reader recognize similarities between Nazi Germany and America today in a way that presents parallels from the histories of both nations. He presents us with historical facts to explain Germany’s fall from grace and explains the tactics used to gain the support of citizens. Looking back, we find the atrocities caused by the hand of the Nazis to be hard to fathom. We can’t imagine seeing this scenario play out and staying silent about it. Erwin Lutzer reminds us that Adolf Hitler was not always known as a monster. In fact, he had overwhelming support of the people of Germany and was respected throughout the world. We can learn a lot of lessons from the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, one of them being the importance of keeping a close watch on cultural and political shifts that can lead to the abuse of power and the oppression of humans.
“The Line Between” and “A Single Light” were the perfect books to read during the year of a pandemic! I read both of these in early February, before I fully understood the turn of events that would soon come. In this series, a young woman escapes a doomsday cult, only to discover the world has gone mad with a widespread disease, something we are all familiar with by now. Wynter Roth is left wondering if this is the end of the world that she had always been warned about. Is she any better off on the outside of the compound walls? Where did this virus come from? Is there a cure? A highly contagious disease that causes a form of early onset dementia isn’t the only obstacle Wynter and her new companions have to face. There’s also hostility from other people who are fighting to survive the collapse of society brought on by the disease. I could not put these books down! You’ll definitely want to go ahead and get both books at the same time so you can continue on with the story.
Bonus info: The author has eluded that these books are being adapted into a television series!
This series by William R. Forstchen was another perfectly fitting series of books to read in 2020.This series follows John Matherson as he tries to keep his family, and his small North Carolina town, alive after America loses a war within one second. A terrorist attack involving the use of an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) knocks out the entire country’s electrical grid and sends everyone back into the dark ages. With no electricity, life changes drastically in an instant. Food shortages quickly cause starvation, otherwise treatable diseases have now become deadly without the luxury of modern medicine, and people are turning on each other in the name of survival. John Matherson steps up to take a leadership role in guiding his community through this totally unexpected crisis and attempts to help them reestablish somewhat of a normal life.
While fiction writing, not a survival guide, these books address several survival topics that could be used in emergency situations. The characters in this story are thrown into situations and events they never even thought to prepare for: food shortages, harsh weather, lack of transportation, self-defense, and even warfare. Reading these books really opened my eyes to just how fragile our luxury-filled lives really are. In the Spring of 2020, and beyond, many areas in the United States were hit with supply shortages of everything from food to toilet paper! Before this year, many Americans probably never considered that they wouldn’t be able to buy meat in a store. The John Matherson series is a wake-up call to all of us to become more prepared and self-reliant.
Pastor Robby Gallaty recounts his personal story of addiction. Drug use plagued Robby’s life, at a fairly young age. His story is different than what you might be imagining. Robby grew up in a loving household with a close and supportive family. They were catholic and attended church every Sunday. After being involved in a car wreck and being put on prescription drugs, Robby quickly became addicted to pain killers and transitioned to street drugs like heroine and cocaine. After blowing through his prescription, he resorted to stealing $15,000 from his parents to continue feeding his drug habit. After hitting rock bottom, going to rehab twice, and relapsing, Robby surrendered his life to Christ.
Robby’s story helps readers have a deeper understanding of the struggles of addiction, including the physical and psychological effect it has on individuals and families. Readers will see substance abuse from a different view when they get a glimpse into the life of an addict. As you read Robby’s story, you may understand that it is much harder than you think to “just quit”.
At the age of nineteen, Christopher Schact decided to leave his home in Germany to travel the world. He wanted to experience all that the world had to offer. Christopher recounts the many incredible experiences he had hitchhiking, sailing, and on foot. He spent four years visiting 45 different countries. To keep his journey going, he worked various jobs to fund his next move. He worked as a sailor, jeweler, au pair, and plenty of other odd and unexpected jobs. His stories will amaze, inspire, and scare you! His trip was far from a vacation. He has lived among drug dealers, indigenous peoples, and even had some scary encounters in the Middle East. During the summer of 2020, when vacationing was just shy of impossible, reading this book was about the closest thing I could get to traveling! Pick up “Around the World on 50 Bucks” and live vicariously through Christopher!
Zombie fanaticism has been around for years, perhaps peaking when “The Walking Dead” series came to AMC. Suddenly everyone was talking about zombies. Even before the huge success of “The Walking Dead” television show, Max Brooks was already on the zombie scene with his books, “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z“. What I liked about “World War Z” was that it was written from the perspective of a journalist, traveling all over the world, interviewing survivors of the “Zombie War”. Each chapter covers a different survivor, from a different country, explaining events that transpired and explains their role in surviving the zombie apocalypse.
I remember walking the aisles of bookstores years ago and flipping through “The Zombie Survival Guide“, but it wasn’t until recently that I took a closer look at the works of Max Brooks. I came across an article online in which Max is talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. He said, “The history of pandemics tends to come in extremely predictable cycles.” “World War Z” uses zombies as a metaphor for the SARS virus. Like SARS, the infected victims become the killers. In the article, his book “Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre” is mentioned and it sounded really interesting. It talks about subjects such as isolation, survival, food shortages, supply chain interruptions, etc. These are all things that people have been dealing with, in one way or another, throughout 2020. I have added that to my reading list for next year!
I make reading through the Bible in a year an annual practice. I talk in detail about finding a manageable Bible reading plan in both “Daily Pursuit” and “My Year in the Bible” so check those out when you have time.
This year I used the Jewish Publication Society’s JPS Tanakh for much of my reading. Since it is a Jewish Bible, it only has the scriptures of what Christians refer to as The Old Testament. I was interested in seeing how a Jewish version of scriptures differed from other translations. For the rest of my reading, I used a mixture of New Living Translation, New International Version, and English Standard Version.
I actually read through the Bible twice this year! I did not intend to read through the Bible two times in one year, but I had already started a reading plan when my wife showed me another one that looked really good. I didn’t want to abandon the plan I had already started, so I decided to buckle down and do both. Like I said before, added downtime in 2020 made this a little more possible.
The second reading plan I did was through a mobile app called “Read Scripture“. It has an easy-to-follow chart to tell you what to read each day. You can also click each day’s reading and read it right on your smart phone, tablet, or other device. This is perfect for reading on the go, in waiting rooms, on car rides, and in my case, the tree stand! My personal favorite feature is the videos provided by The Bible Project! These are a lot of the same videos featured in the Filament enabled Bibles. They do a fantastic job of giving an overview of the book, chapter, or section that you are about to read that day by using informative animated videos. I recommend this app for people on the go who think they don’t have time to read the Bible. You may just find that it is easier than you think, given the right tools.
As usual, I read about a variety of different subjects this year. I like to have variety so I can learn and experience something new. My goal for 2020 was to surpass 2019’s quantity of books read. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to quite reach that goal. However, I am satisfied with my results, given all the craziness of the year. Plus, reading through the Bible twice was no small feat for me, so I am glad to have taken this past year to focus more on scripture. As you probably guessed, I already have a long list of books lined up for 2021!
I hope you find a book or two on this list that interests you. If one of them sparks your interest, I encourage you to pick it up and make time to read this year. I have included links to each book where you can view and purchase it online (through an independently owned bookshop) or in-store. Now, more than ever, I encourage you to #ShopSmall and support the local bookstores in your area. Small businesses are struggling on a scale that most of us can’t even imagine right now. Local bookshops are at great risk of closure, especially Christian bookstores. You may have noticed that Christian bookstores are few and far between recently. Most Christian bookstore have closed their doors in the past few years because they simply couldn’t compete with online retail giants, such as Amazon. The government mandated lock downs and forced closures of small businesses throughout 2020 and beyond have been the final nail in the coffin for many stores. When at all possible, try to seek out local Christian bookstores to support.
What are you reading right now?
What great books of 2020 did I miss? If you have any other book recommendations that you would like to share, I would love to hear from you! I am always looking for new and exciting titles to add to my list!
Add your thoughts or recommendations in the comments below, contact me through this site by clicking CONTACT, or reach me by email at email@example.com.
Paddling upstream on a river can be grueling! But restoring damaged relationships doesn’t have to be. Make small changes now to avoid heavy maneuvers later and you’ll have smooth sailing!
Have you ever tried to paddle upstream? I have. A friend and I had the grand idea to paddle my canoe down a river to a secluded hunting spot. With the nearest boat ramp being several miles away, and no vehicle parked at the other end, our plan was to then paddle back up stream to where we put in. Even though it was only a couple of miles, it was tough! At a glance, the river did not appear to be moving at a rapid pace, but river conditions can change quickly and it took a lot of strength and tenacity to get back to our starting point.
Unlike the journey in, where we mostly coasted to our destination, the trip back didn’t allow much room for sightseeing. While we did see some deer along the riverbank on the way back, there was no chance of stopping to gaze or we would be washed back downstream. A swig or two from a water bottle to re-hydrate was all there was time for. The trip back was focused mostly on perseverance and grit.
Rivers hunts in a canoe can be a lot like relational speed bumps between me and you. When we harbor grudges, build up negative thoughts, and have judgmental attitudes towards others, we tend to get so far downstream from living in peace in our relationships that no amount of paddling can get us back to the dock. The ill feelings compound and turn into contempt. The gossip and snide remarks turn into resentment. All this negativity makes for a fast-flowing current of anger that keeps pushing us farther and farther away from where we need to be. When we realize what is happening and decide we want to change course, it’s a struggle! Back peddling can feel like an impossible task.
When Andrew and I made it back to the boat ramp that evening, we were worn out. It was difficult, and we had to take a few breaks, but we made it. We knew we had no other choice. In the days after this trip, as I did more research on the area, I found that there were other places where we could pull a canoe out of the water downstream that weren’t as far away as I originally thought. With a little extra research and intentional planning, we might have avoided the struggle altogether!
It is the same with your relationships. If you plan ahead and recognize where your negativity might lead in the future, you can make small changes now to avoid heavy maneuvers later. Watch for the red flags, anticipate the triggers, and keep it within the buoys. If you can do that, your communication with those close to you will be smooth sailing!
You know what though? Even though paddling upstream on the river that day was hard, it was worth it! It was a long, hard process but it was well worth it in the end because of what we accomplished. We discovered a new, unpressured hunting spot to enjoy for years to come.
The journey towards healing in your relationships will be the same way. It will be tough! It will be a fight! But if you strive for restoration, you can live in peace (2 Corinthians 13:11). So, just grip the paddle and grin. It will be so worth it when your relationship is restored.
Looking back on the year 2019, I would like to take a moment to review and reflect on the various books I read throughout the past year.
Much like last year, this year I set out to read as many books as I could in one calendar year again. I wanted to take it a step further, however, and attempt read more than I did in 2018.
As I have mentioned before, I have a bad habit of starting new books before I have finished the previous ones, leaving many sitting around partially read. I told myself I wasn’t going to do that this year but, I must admit, it happened more than once. I found myself reading one book at home and another book during my lunch break at work. However, for me, reading only two at the same time is still an improvement from my usual stack of books with bookmarks sticking out halfway through them.
The following is a list of all the books I read in 2019, along with a brief summary, and maybe a review.
Pastor and teacher Scot Longyear explores seven practices we can use to awaken our spiritual life and our relationship with Christ. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book as fast as I did this one. Part of the reason is because I was reading it in the waiting room for an appointment that was running way behind schedule, giving me extra reading time. The other reason is because Pastor Scot has an incredibly engaging writing style that kept me wanting to learn more. Many Christians are asleep in their faith and need resuscitated. This book can help you wake up!
Americans tend to think the American Dream somehow goes hand-in-hand with Christianity. But is that what the Bible teaches? Does the chasing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness clash with The Gospel message? Jonathan’s book will have you questioning many of the things you thought you understood about The United States, justice, and cultural Christianity. In his book he forces the reader to wrestle with controversial topics related to our “Christian heritage” as a nation, focusing heavily on the topic of racism, and finding true freedom in Christ alone.
This book was just fun! I enjoyed reading the stories about Christians who have made a huge impact because of their willingness to stand out. Many Christians, and churches, have been spinning their wheels trying to find ways to stay relevant with the culture. The problem is, Christians were never meant to fit in. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”. Christians are supposed to be unique, different, and yes … WEIRD! Don’t worry when the world thinks you are living your life in a strange way. Just follow Jesus. One of my favorite stories in this book was of St. Clement’s Church in west London and how they served their community in wake of the Grenfell Tower Fire in 2017. Pick up the book and read the inspiring story of how one small, struggling church helped their neighbors in a big way!
Every self-proclaimed bibliophile should pick up this short, easy read. Anne understands the joys and struggles of a book addict. From owning way too many books and bookshelves, to organizing, and reorganizing, said books and bookshelves compulsively. She talks about classics that have impacted her, as well as passing along reading tips. Some tips include: why you should always take the time to read the dedication pages, acknowledgements, and other things you may tend to skip as you hurry through to get to your next book. If you are a heavy reader, you’ll like Anne. She just gets it.
I am a fan of country music. Maybe I should say that I am a fan of what country music used to be. Outlaw Country from the era of Waylon Jennings is just hard to beat. This book is an inside look into the lives of country music’s most royal couple, Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter. You will read personal details of the lives of famous musicians from the perspective of someone who was right in the middle of it. Struggles, addictions, success, and faith. Jessi holds nothing back. A must read for music fans of all genres.
It probably comes as no surprise to you that emerging generations are not interested in going to church. If that does come as a surprise to you, then you need to read this book. As Dan points out, younger generations have great respect for Jesus and are interested in learning more about Him. Their hangup is with Christians who turn them off to participating in “organized religion”. It is crucial that Christians be involved in a church, but we need to have churches that operate in a way that makes them worth being involved with. As Pastor Scot Longyear said (author of Soul Coma), “Nothing works like the local church when the local church is working right.” Church-goers who seem to say one thing and do another is a major contributing factor to young people’s disinterest in church involvement. In this book, find out why emerging generations aren’t interested in church and what you can do to change that trend.
I got this book years ago when it was first released and, for some reason, had it stored away in a box without reading it. In fact, they released a 10th anniversary edition of it this year! Yes, I have a problem with collecting books, even unread ones. This book is filled with helpful advice and real-life application of how to talk to people about your Christian beliefs. Talking to people about religion often makes people nervous. They feel unequipped to speak about it because they are afraid they may not have all the answers. Here’s the thing: you don’t have all the answers! That is okay though, because this book will tell you how to facilitate conversation about Christianity in an honest and comfortable way.
Written primarily with teens and young adults in mind, Jesus is for Liars tells readers that it is okay to have questions about the Christian faith and it is okay if you mess up sometimes. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean you become perfect or that you are now immune to sin. It means that your sins are covered by the grace of God through Jesus Christ! It is time to drop the guilt and the obsessive rule following and start pursuing a relationship with the Savior.
My favorite read of the year! I didn’t want it to end and I have been praying for this to become a series ever since I finished it. I love dystopian novels, so imagine my excitement when I saw this book hit the shelves at my local Christian bookstore. With over fifty books in his portfolio, Travis Thrasher needs no introduction. He’s collaborated and co-written with so many celebrities and personalities that you’ve likely read one of his books without even knowing it. In American Omens, the Religious Right in a near-future America is living in a society that is now intolerant of Christian beliefs. As you read, you may just find yourself thinking that this book is more prophetic than it is fiction. It’s thrilling, captivating, terrifying, and a wake up call to nominal Christians everywhere! It also has more U2 references than you could shake a drumstick at.
The Native American, Shaubena (also known by Shabonna, Shabonee, and other closely related names) was an Ottawa tribe member who later became a chief in the Potawatomi tribe in Illinois. He is best known for keeping his fellow Potawatomi tribesman out of the Black Hawk War. With ties to an area not far from where I reside, I quickly accepted the recommendation to read Memories of Shaubena and learn more about this man’s impact on the early American nation. This book recounts Shaubena’s experiences fighting alongside Chief Tecumseh, meeting with American politicians, and many other memorable moments in Native American and Early American history.
This is the second book I have read by Michael Yousseff. He has a deep and personal connection to the Muslim world and first-hand experience with living in a place controlled by the Islamic State. In The Third Jihad, Yousseff takes us back in history to tell us the background of radical Islam and it’s ties to the West, even before The United States was a country.
We think of Jesus, first, as the Son of God. However, for His early disciples, they knew Him first as a human. Trent Sheppard focuses on the humanness of Jesus. He recounts His conversations with His mother, His disciples, and with God and gives us a more personal view of Jesus as a human who walked the same Earth that we do.
Another dystopian novel. This was first published over seventy years ago. It depicts a future where humans are genetically bred, regularly drugged with pharmaceuticals, and convinced to serve a ruling order that treats them more as experiments or subjects to be manipulated than as humans with their own emotions, preferences, or creativity. Surprisingly, I wasn’t drawn into this story. Honestly, for a book that has stood the test of time, and is considered a classic by many, I expected it to be a little more engaging.
This short book gives an overview of his life, his important endeavor, and his tragic death. William Tyndale had an idea to create an English translation of the Bible so that even commoners could read the scripture in their own language. This idea was considered heresy by the religious elite of the time because they wanted to have full control over what the people knew of the Bible and what the scriptures said. Ultimately, Tyndale was executed by strangling him to death and then burning his body at the stake. His last words are reported to have been “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!”. Without William Tyndale’s sacrifice, perhaps we would all still be subject to the oppression of religious leaders who crave personal power over Biblical truth.
There’s a tree on the first page of Genesis and on the last page of Revelation, and that’s no accident. Did you know that nearly every major event in the Bible is marked with a tree? Clearly trees are pretty important to God. Reforesting Faith tells us why.
The nephew of internationally known televangelist Benny Hinn gives us an eye-opening, behind the scenes look into the Prosperity Gospel and proves that it is, in reality, no Gospel at all. As a member of the Prosperity Gospel’s royal family, Costi had a front row seat to the ministry of his uncle Benny, even being employed by him. Now Costi is warning Christians that the Prosperity Gospel is opposite of the truth the Bible teaches and detrimental to the spiritual lives of the often desperate and vulnerable people who seek help through this deceiving avenue. This is not a book bashing his family or others involved with this type of ministry. Instead, you’ll find that it is a heartfelt warning that Jesus wants so much more for you than acquiring health, wealth, and material possessions. In a culture that so often tells us that wealth and possessions are what makes us successful and “blessed”, this book is refreshing to the soul.
I remember some of my classmates reading this book in school as assigned reading. I must have been in a different English class because I did not. It makes me wonder what we were reading instead. Anyway, I decided I wanted to see what this book was all about. A plane crash leaves a group of young boys stranded on an island where they are forced to learn to fend for themselves, create their own government, and survive the island-and each other. I was reminded of this book when I watched the Netflix series The Society, which has a similar story line, only with a female-led society of high school aged kids trying to survive in their town after their parents disappear.
America as we know it has collapsed. It is fifty years later and the country is a much different place. Now the country is separated into individual enclaves who are trying to make ends meet through bartering and trading. Caleb has a secret that could lead to the survival of his enclave. As he soon finds out, there are many other people with their own secrets. A network of outcasts with special abilities must work together to avoid agents that wish to destroy their kind in order to save their lives and their homes.
I love books about hunting. This one follows the Holder family who produces a television show called “Raised Hunting“. They talk about their experiences in the outdoors and what they’ve learned about faith and family through their adventures. One thing I loved about this book is that each chapter concludes with a wild game recipe!
I would say this is within my top 3 favorite books of the year. Brant Hansen is hilarious, but his subject is serious: Christians have no right to act on their anger. Folks have cherry picked verses from the Bible to justify their anger towards certain subjects, but the fact is, Jesus doesn’t teach that we are justified in acting on our anger. You can stand up for social justice and for your faith without getting angry. You can read political posts on your social media feed without getting angry. You can watch the news without getting angry. I know, it’s hard to believe but it’s true! Read Brant’s book and choose to be Unoffendable in the age of outrage!
I can’t believe I have never read this book! This Christian classic was written in the 1600s and for some reason I have never picked it up to read it. Shame on me for waiting so long. It has been re-written in modern language to make it easier to read and understand (thankfully). It depicts the journey of a man named Christian (yeah, that’s his name) who is traveling to the Celestial City. He encounters trouble and temptation and meets many interesting characters along the way. This book is a fictional story relating Christian’s journey to our Christian walk as we follow Jesus.
Yeah, the title is shocking and maybe a little unconventional. You know what’s even more unconventional? Living for Jesus instead of the culture. I am sure a lot of good Christian shoppers were disturbed when they saw this book hit the shelf at their Christian bookstore. I mean, can a Christian say that!? Well… yes. Jeff was intentional with this title. He literally means that a life engulfed in hustle is straight from Hell and not from Jesus. We are so busy and over committed that we are missing out on what is most valuable, like our relationship with Jesus and our time with our families. The worst part is that we don’t even really notice how busy we are because it has become the norm for us. Americans secretly love to stay busy because it makes us feel important. Read Jeff’s book, send the the hustle back where it belongs, and enjoy Shalom the way Jesus intended.
I loved the Netflix series Stranger Things. I am not typically interested in anything related to sci-fi but as I saw more and more people talking about this series when it first came out, I decided there must be something to it! There have now been three seasons and I’ve seen every episode (some more than once). In The World Turned Upside Down, Heiser explains the connection between Hawkins and The Upside Down and how it relates to our world and the spiritual realm. Although the series wasn’t meant to be an allegory or have any connections to Christianity, there are some very interesting parallels. When I first spotted the book, a Babylon Bee article came to mind about relating every movie to the Gospel and I was skeptical. However, I gave it a chance and I’m glad I did. The author makes some great points without too much of a stretch to force the Gospel connection to happen. There are some super interesting details about the Nephilim mentioned in the Bible that I’ve never once heard a sermon on! Ultimately, it was just great to reminisce on the Stranger Things seasons!
If you are looking at this book thinking it’s a little below my reading level, you are right. My nephew started reading this series of books recently so I wanted to see what it was about. As someone who watched plenty of Man vs. Wild in its prime, I read through this with Bear Grylls’ voice narrating the story in my head. In this fun, adventure-filled book, a fiercely competitive boy, named Omar, must learn patience and selflessness in order to survive when he finds himself magically transported from summer camp to the jungle. There he meets Bear Grylls who helps him learn how to slow down, adapt to his environment, and do things the right way. I’d recommend this series to parents (or aunts and uncles) looking for stories with a positive message for active and adventurous kids.
Anyone who hunts whitetail deer knows who Mark Kenyon is. He hosts the incredibly popular Wired To Hunt Podcast and is now a member of the MeatEater crew. A huge whitetail fanatic and public lands advocate, this is his first book. If you’re into history, That Wild Country is jam packed with knowledge of the history of federally owned public lands. The author stands for keeping land in the hands of the federal government at all costs. While I very much appreciate and enjoy public lands for recreation, hunting, sightseeing, camping, and a million other things, and consider them to be very important and useful, I cannot say that I am quite on board with the entire outlook of many public lands advocates. I very much respect private land ownership as well, and very much prefer small government and as little government interference as possible. So, I admit, there was much I saw differently, or had to try to view through a different lens. While Mark does give accounts of numerous travels and trips through various national parks and other outdoor recreational areas, the book was a little more political leaning than it was outdoors writing, in my opinion. But, to be fair, when you’re talking about the pros and cons of federally owned property, I suppose it is kind of hard to avoid the politics of it all. After reading this book, I realize I have much to learn about the process of public land ownership and I plan to continue following legislation involving federally owned properties to better understand the system. My takeaway is that I need to pay even closer attention to such things, because it is important to our country’s future and the enjoyment of future generations. I liked the way Mark takes the reader along with him on his travels, similar to Roger Thompson’s riveting tales in We Stood Upon Stars.
Oh man, this was a great book! This was recommended to me almost a year ago, and while I did buy it, I didn’t get around to reading it until months later. I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long. Bill Bryson is a phenomenal story teller and a hilarious writer. I laughed through basically the entire book. He recounts his journey while trying to hike the Appalachian Trail and will have you wanting to gear up and start a thru-hike yourself. You don’t even have to be an outdoors enthusiast to enjoy this book. In fact, it’s perfect for indoor types because you get all the thrill and excitement of a multi-state hike, and none of the twisted ankles, bug bites, or spills! This will be a book I read again!
I make reading through the Bible in a year an annual practice. I talk in detail about finding a manageable Bible reading plan in both “Daily Pursuit” and “My Year in the Bible” so I won’t go into it here. This year I focused a large portion of my Bible reading using the new Filament Bible by Tyndale Publishers. It is written in the New Living Translation (NLT) which is one I haven’t used regularly in the past. I can’t say enough about this Bible and its features. It is a study Bible, digital Bible, and plain text Bible, all in one! On every page, there’s a small cross emblem that serves as a type of QR code. After downloading the free Filament app, you can scan these with your phone to unlock tons of information and materials pertaining specifically to the content on that particular page. You will have access to interactive maps, charts, photographs, study notes, devotionals, articles, and a lot of other resources. My personal favorite feature is the videos provided by The Bible Project! They do a fantastic job of telling the story of the Bible as one seamless story, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, through informative animated videos. You really have to try out the Filament Bible. Filament will prove to you that reading the Bible doesn’t have to be boring!
As usual, I read about a variety of different subjects this year. I like to have variety so I can learn and experience something new. This year I made it a point to mix in some more fiction titles than I usual read. My goal for 2019 was to surpass 2018’s quantity of books read. Given that I had a new baby towards the beginning of the year, that really took a lot of my attention away from reading, I am proud that I accomplished my goal.
I already have quite a large list of books that I plan to read in the future. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to check them all off in 2019 due to its size and ever-growing nature. There are a range of different genres on my “To-Be-Read” list, as you can imagine. There are some outdoors related books, another dystopian title (I am intrigued by those, in case you couldn’t tell), a few fiction books, and, of course, a plethora of Christian literature.
I hope you find a book or two on this list that interests you. I have included links to each book where you can view and purchase it online or in-store. If any of them spark your interest, I encourage you to pick it up and make time to read it.
What are you reading right now?
What great books of 2019 did I miss? If you have any other book recommendations that you would like to share, I would love to hear from you! I am always looking for new and exciting titles to add to my list!
Add your thoughts or recommendations in the comments below, contact me through this site by clicking CONTACT, or reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evil is often disguised as something desirable and attractive. It isn’t until we feel the piercing of its arrow that we realize we have been deceived by deadly desire.
“Evil rarely looks evil until it accomplishes it’s goal; it gains entrance by appearing attractive, desirable, and perfectly legitimate. It is a baited and camouflaged trap.”-Klyne Snodgrass in “Firmly Planted” by Robby Gallaty
This quote by Klyne Snodgrass makes me think of the way a whitetail deer walks into its demise. It is lured in by things that look, seem, taste, or smell attractive. Maybe it’s decoys, scents, bait, food plots, or soothing deer call sounds. They wander willingly into these scenarios because they seem like perfectly legitimate attractions. They seem like things they would like to take part in. It isn’t until they feel the piercing of the arrow that they realize they have walked into a trap, and ultimately their death. They get dragged away by desire, and then they end up being dragged away to the processor! (Proverbs 11:6)
“We have an active opponent with the ferocious hunting instincts of a lion who can only be defeated through the power of the cross and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.”-Robby Gallaty in “Firmly Planted”
Let us take this as a lesson for our spiritual walk. The things of this world will seem tempting, desirable, and enticing. The things that ensnare will be different for each individual. It could be the pursuit of popularity, status, money, wrong relationships, or any other earthly satisfaction. We may take part in these things and enjoy them for a season, thinking everything will be fine. However, eventually that impending moment comes, and the Devil is there waiting in the bushes. We never saw it coming. It isn’t until he sinks the final shot that we realize we have been duped. Now suddenly we are dealing with the consequences of our actions and our disregard for Godliness and holiness (James 1:14-15).
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever unknowingly strolled down a path of destruction without even realizing it? Chances are good that you have, at least to some extent. Unfortunately, we often get blindsided by these sorts of things. Looking back, we should have known, but we were just too naive to see the danger.
As we see in James 1:14-15, sin doesn’t always result in instant destruction. It is often a slow fade. First, we are tempted and dragged away by our desires. Next, desire conceives and gives birth to sin. Then, when sin reaches fruition, it results in death; Death of our happiness, death of our marriage, death of our career, and yes, possibly even physical death.
This is a process. Sometimes this process is rather quick, taking place over a few hours, or a few days, as you make one bad decision after another. Other times the process takes months or even years. I know people struggling to recoup from decades of self-inflicted destruction that has finally caught up with them. No one knows when the weight of their choices will come crashing down. All we know is that sin eventually leads to death (Romans 6:23).
Don’t get discouraged just yet! Thankfully, there is a way out! We can choose not to conform to the patterns of this world (Romans 12:2) and instead choose to call out to Jesus (Romans 10:13). When we put our trust in Him, we can be forgiven. Don’t let the temptations of this world deceive you and steal your joy. Jesus offers us a new path, one that leads to a truly full life (John 10:10)!
No matter where you are on the path, you always have the ability to change course. In the same way a deer catches wind of danger and hightails out of shooting range, we too can stay alert.
“The righteous person is rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead.”
The buck pictured below was deceived by desire and was caught chasing after the wrong doe. That mistake put him within 20 yards of a different type of ferocious hunter who was anxiously awaiting his arrival. His misstep earned him a free ride in the back of an F-150.
Sniff out the traps and avoid the pitfalls that are trying to entice you away from your true calling and away from a full life with Christ.
Choose Jesus, choose life.
*For more stunning wildlife and nature photography from Bryan Eastham, visit bryaneastham.com
The more we keep our eyes on Jesus, the better we grow. Your desire and ability to face the Son is even more vital to your well-being than a sunflower’s desire and ability to face the sun.
One summer, I visited a “Sunflower Maze” on the outskirts of rural Paris, Illinois. Folks living and working in this area of the country are not strangers to farmland and crops. No one can travel more than a mile without passing a cornfield. Farming is so common there that the beautiful rural landscape kind of gets taken for granted.
Just a mile and a half away from the sunflower maze was once a long-standing, popular fall attraction. It was called Pumpkin Works. It’s main claim-to-fame was corn mazes. This establishment had been an attraction open to the public since 1993. I remember going there every autumn all through my childhood and teenage years, as well as when I became an adult. Everyone I knew had been there, at least a few times.
Unfortunately, Pumpkin Works closed down following the end of the fall season in 2018. Since then, tourists visiting the area seem to have switched their focus off of corn, and are now giving their full attention to sunflowers instead. And for good reason! The sunflower maze at L&A Family Farms is quite the sight to see and it is sure to be a new annual tradition for the next generations of families to enjoy!
Spanning over 1,000 acres, there is much to see and do at L&A Family Farms, including nature trails, hayrides, summer camps, concessions, farm-fresh meat and produce, and, of course, the sunflower maze! The maze typically opens around the middle of July and closes after the last section blooms around the beginning of August. Out of all the offerings at the farm, what stood out to me most was just one detail I noticed at the sunflower maze: all the sunflowers were facing the same direction.
To people more familiar with plants and how they grow, this may seem like a silly thing to be impressed by, but with very little knowledge of farming or gardening, this intrigued me. From what little I do know about plants, I assumed they followed the sun for photosynthesis purposes. Plants need sun to grow, obviously, and that was about where my knowledge ended. I wanted to know more about how and why this happens. I began doing a little research.
Typically, it is the younger flowers that exhibit this kind of behavior. At a certain point of maturity, once the flower grows seeds, the weight of the flower head causes it to droop and face mostly east. I discovered a new term I had never heard of before: heliotropism. This is the term for a plant’s tendency to move toward sun. This is what I was witnessing at the maze. Sunflowers also have growth hormones, called auxin, that play a part in this shift by migrating to the shaded part of the flower, but I will leave the rest of the botany details for you to research on your own.
A sunflower has many reasons for this desire to face the sun. Perhaps the most important reason is so that they can be better noticed by pollinators. Since a sunflower plant has only one flower, it is crucial that it gets noticed by pollinating insects. It wants to be where it is being warmed by the sun, making it more attractive to passing pollinators, and presenting itself in a way that makes it most noticeable. The continued existence of sunflowers as individual plants, and as a species, depends on their capability to keep facing the sun.
So, why should you care about this and how does it affect you? Well, the way you position yourself is important too. No, I’m not talking about getting a killer tan. Your desire and ability to face the Son is even more vital to your well-being than a sunflower’s desire and ability to face the sun.
Like the passage in Hebrews 12: 1-3 says, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the perfect Son of God, who sits at His right hand. The more we keep our eyes on Jesus, the better we grow. We bask in His glorious light and are fueled by His presence. As we focus on Jesus, we begin to see the world through His eyes. As we start to become more and more like Him, people will take notice!
“Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
The auxin in the sunflower is like the sin in our lives. Darkness hates the light (John 3:20) and light cannot have fellowship with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14). Push the sin back and remove all distractions so you can grow in Christ.
Sin will try to entangle you. Every day it will try to drag you down. However, Jesus came up against the ultimate opposition, yet endured. He gave His life for the forgiveness of your sins. Then He rose from the grave proclaiming power over death and sin. That same power resides in us as Christians and gives us perseverance as we press on towards the goals God has for our lives (Philippians 3:12-14)!
Consistently remind yourself of Hebrews 12:3 and what Christ has accomplished for you on the cross. Write it on a sticky note, tape it to your mirror, put it on your refrigerator. Whatever it takes to keep your eyes, and your mind, on Jesus.
If you ever get the chance to visit the sunflower maze, let it be a reminder to you that, as beautiful as it may be, the Kingdom of God is even more spectacular than a field full of flowers could ever be!
This world is full of struggles, storms, and darkness. But if you can keep your eyes on the Son, you will bloom!
*L&A Family Farm’s Farm Store is open year-round for farm fresh eggs, grass-fed beef, vegetables, and more (selection and hours vary by season). For more information on their summer and fall events, products, or to order online, visit their website at www.lafamilyfarms.com.
An “Us vs. Them” mentality will never advance the Kingdom of God. If we want to reach people, we need to start viewing them as fellow image-bearers.
One day, I was in a Christian business when I overheard a nearby conversation between two women who were shopping. They were standing near a basket of lapel pins shaped like baby feet. The pins represented the exact size and shape of a 10-week old baby’s feet inside the mother’s womb. Proceeds from these little pins benefited a local pregnancy center that assists families with unexpected and crisis pregnancies. The purpose of the fundraiser was to promote the value of human life.
Seeing the pins on display, for some reason, sparked one of the women to say to the other something along the lines of “The non-Americans in Congress are trying to say we shouldn’t have any babies right now.” She went on to sarcastically say “Oh yeah! Let’s just let the Muslims have all the babies instead so they can overthrow us!” These were just a couple of the highlights from her disgruntled murmurings.
These statements were incorrect on several levels but let’s dissect just a few:
For starters, there are no “non-Americans” in Congress. A Senator must be a United States citizen to even qualify for office. The requirements for the U.S. Senate can be found here.
The statement the woman was referring to was undoubtedly a quote by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or “AOC”, a U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District. During a conversation about climate change and its effect on the earth she stated “There’s scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult. And it does lead young people to have a legitimate question: Is it OK to still have children?” Her comment was in regards to how the health of our planet may effect our children, and all humans, in the years to come. It did not have anything to do with Islam, or any other religion for that matter, as far as I can tell.
From some very basic internet research, I have gathered that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx to Catholic parents of Puerto Rican descent. Maybe the shopper assumed AOC was a Muslim by the tone of her skin? Or perhaps she had this Senator confused with another female Representative who is a Muslim, Ilhan Abdullahi Omar, who has also been often featured in the news? Either way, her statements were not only incorrect, but were also contrary to the Gospel message.
In reference to being outnumbered and overthrown, we are not in some sort of race or battle to see which major world religion can have the most offspring in order to outnumber one another. Where did this idea come from? And why would we think that just because two people had a baby, that the child would add another hash mark to the number of people practicing a certain religion?
I would agree that many children tend to participate in the religious activities of their parents…to a point. However, research shows that 18-25 year olds are becoming scarce in Christian churches. Just pay a visit to most American protestant churches and this fact will be more than obvious. Reasons for the shift, and attendance data, can be found here.
So, at least for Christianity, being born to Christian parents does not guarantee a person chooses to remain faithful into adulthood. Therefore, the argument that Christians should have more babies in order to produce more Christians just does not hold water. The Bible does not teach that your salvation has anything to do with the salvation of your parents, or anyone else for that matter. Salvation comes from Jesus Christ alone, not from your family lineage.
The comments made by the woman shopping that day, and the thought process behind them, are ill-informed, potentially racist, and highly prejudice. I also find it ironic that a display of products that advocates for the value of human life sparked this conversation in the first place. Does a person of another nationality or religion have less value because it isn’t the same as yours? Did Jesus teach this? Of course not! Quite the opposite!
Muslims are not the enemies of God. Sin is the enemy of God. You have to recognize the difference. A human being practicing Islam is still a person made in the image of God, therefore deserving of forgiveness and redemption, just like any other human being on Earth. We cannot write people off because of their current lifestyle or their current sin. If anything, it should give us a further sense of urgency to show them the love and grace of the Savior we claim to serve.
An “Us vs. Them” mentality will never advance the Kingdom of God. If we want to reach people for Christ, we need to start viewing them as fellow image-bearers and understanding them, and their beliefs, on a personal level.
Radical political Islam poses numerous threats to both Christianity and the Western way of life. It is imperative that we do not take those dangers lightly. It is our responsibility as Christians to both understand, and stand against, beliefs that are contrary to the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This does not mean we pick up our weapons to cut others down, but rather grasp firmly to Truth and gently instruct, in hopes that they will escape the captivity of sin (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
“Christians are called by God to conquer the world-not by the sword, not by subversion and subterfuge, but by spreading God’s message of grace and truth.”-Michael Youssef in “The Third Jihad“
The Bible is full of verses telling followers of God to accept and treat foreigners with respect, even in the Old Testament. For now, let’s just take a look at one instance in Luke 10:25-37.
Jesus is being tested by an expert in Jewish law. The man asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (v29). As Jesus was known to do, He answered the man’s question by telling a parable. The story He tells is one you may be familiar with. It is a favorite among Sunday School leaders for teaching children to be kind to others. There is more to the lesson than just helping out someone in need, however. It goes much deeper than that.
The parable Jesus told is often referred to as “The Story of the Good Samaritan”. That title can be a little deceiving, though, if you are not familiar with ancient Jewish history. The Jewish people in that time would NOT have referred to any Samaritan as “good“! The Samaritan in this story was only called “good” because he helped someone in need, regardless of the possibility that they were of another nationality or class.
We do not know whether the injured man laying along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho was a Jew or a Gentile (non-Jew), but what we can be sure of is that the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other! Jews considered the Samaritans to be scum of the earth, the lowest of low, half-breeds. No one would have been surprised at all if the Samaritan had let the man lay there and suffer. In fact, they would have expected it. Even still, the Samaritan man goes to great lengths to help this person who could have very well been considered his earthly enemy. He does not appear to contemplate whether or not the man is a Jew or not. He helps the man without hesitation because it was the right thing to do.
The Samaritan’s compassion did not depend on the victim’s nationality. His kindness was not dependent on the man’s skin color. He did not wait to make sure their political views or religious beliefs lined up perfectly. Instead, he saw a man who was suffering and he attended to his needs, because all human life has value! When our compassion for others depends solely on the color of their skin or their religion, we leave fellow image-bearers to lay dying, physically and spiritually, in the streets of every town, city, and country in the world.
“Jesus showed us that holiness is about how we treat others, especially those who are suffering and those who are different, those who may well be outsiders to your way of living, your way of voting, and, yes, even your way of believing.”-Trent Sheppard in “Jesus Journey“
Anyone can show love for someone they like, or someone who is like themselves (Luke 6:32-33). It takes a lot of heart, and sometimes a movement of the Holy Spirit, to show love to someone we disagree with. Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-36), so what excuse do we have to do otherwise?
I think the expert in the law in Luke 10 was trying to find a loophole in the “love your neighbor as yourself” command in Leviticus 19:18 by implying that he was unsure who the scripture was referring to.
I am afraid Christians sometimes try to do the same thing. We hold hatred in our hearts for people who disagree with us because we are cowards. It is easier to scowl at foreigners than it is to embrace them. It is easier to ignore the poor than it is to feed them. It is easier to write off Muslims than it is to engage them in conversation.
“…there are certainly millions of moderate Muslims in the world… They are not our enemy. They are our mission field.”-Michael Youssef in “The Third Jihad“
The differences between Christians and Muslims are not excuses to avoid them. They are reasons to engage them. Ezekiel 3:18 makes it clear that it is our duty to reach Muslims, and all others, for Christ. Everyone deserves the opportunity to choose freely for themselves whether they want to accept the Truth of Jesus, but it is our responsibility to present the Gospel message to everyone, without bias.
Now, go and do likewise (Luke 10:37)!
Christians can, and should, stand firmly against the beliefs of other religions that deny the Truth laid out by God in the Bible. But in order to do that effectively, we must first understand what others believe and what the Bible teaches.
In order to be relevant and effective witnesses to those practicing Islam, Christians must be knowledgeable about the beliefs and views of Muslims.
“Sometimes life is so hard that we feel like we’re drowning. We call out for God to throw us a life jacket, but maybe He wants to teach us to swim instead.”
Hey God, are you going to fix this or not?
Can’t you see what I am going through here?
Are you even hearing me?
Sometimes life gets so hard that we feel like we’re drowning. We find ourselves calling out from the deep end for God to help us. We just want Him to throw us a life jacket, but sometimes He wants to teach us to swim instead. That’s because He is a Good Father.
Think back to when you were learning to swim in the pool. At first, you probably wore a floating pool ring, then maybe some arm bands. From there you might have switched to a kick board or a pool float of some sort to aid you while you got the feel for kicking your feet and staying afloat. These steps all served a purpose: strengthening your body and honing your skills for the day when you would swim on your own, with no assistance.
Remember the moment you swam all by yourself for the first time? It was so freeing! You could swim wherever you wanted! You could swim from one side of the pool to the other, to the deep end, even across the lake!
Now think back again to that first time you stepped foot in the pool. What if your parents would have just left you in those armbands, even when you were a teenager? Sure, you would be safe from drowning. It would also have prevented your muscles from getting sore from kicking and paddling. But would you have just worn them forever? At what point would their concern for your safety just be considered enabling laziness instead? That would not be what I would consider a “good parent”.
Instead, they likely encouraged you to kick harder, paddle faster, and to hold your nose when you go under the water. They kept close watch as you learned the process and built up your strength. A good parent coaches their child and motivates them to learn new skills that will help them throughout life. They look past the temporary to prepare you for a lifetime of good things. They don’t just do everything for you.
If God just snapped His fingers like a genie and solved all your problems, would that ultimately be the best thing for you? Like the enabling parent, at what point would your free will just be replaced by a puppeteer’s agenda? Is that really what you want? Is that any kind of life?
“Sometimes God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves!”-Joni Eareckson Tada
In Matthew 11:1-6, John the Baptist is in prison and hears about the things Jesus is doing. He sends his disciples to Jesus to question Him. John appears to be questioning if Jesus is the Messiah. But I don’t think that’s exactly what his question means. I wonder if maybe he is just questioning what type of Messiah Jesus is. Is it possible that John thought Jesus would be more of a king or conqueror, like many Jews did, as well as forgiver of sins? Perhaps he hoped Jesus could help free him of his jail sentence? I’m not sure what sparked this question but I think Jesus’ response is to tell John that He didn’t come for the reasons that he was expecting.
Jesus wasn’t going to come rescue John from prison, but it wasn’t because He didn’t love him. Just because God doesn’t respond in the way we would like, it doesn’t mean He isn’t still working in amazing ways.
I’m sure John didn’t consider being in prison “light and momentary trouble”. I bet the divorce doesn’t feel light and momentary. I am sure the diagnosis doesn’t feel light and momentary at all! But I think God would tell us “If you could only see the things that are to come!” These earthly trials might make us lose our head, but we will never lose heart because we know that He is achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs all of our temporary suffering!
God is always there, always helping you eternally, not just temporarily. He is always preparing you to ride the waves ahead and doing good works in you, even when it is hard to see.
“Even when the rain falls-Needtobreathe
Even when the flood starts rising
‘Cause even when the storm comes
I am washed by the water.”
When it feels like you are struggling to keep your head above water, it might be that you are actually immersed in God’s plan. You might feel like you are drowning, but maybe you are really just submerged in His mission. Maybe you feel stranded in the middle of the ocean, treading water, but He is on top of the waves walking out to meet you. You won’t go under unless you take your eyes off of Jesus and put your focus on your troubles instead. (Matthew 14:22-36)
So, let the waters rise! Jesus is reaching out His hand to catch the faithful.
Let the Waters Rise by Mike’s Chair