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.
Jesus made it clear that the lawyer in Luke 10 was to love everyone as himself, and if he would do that, then he would live (Luke 10:28).
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
When we experience something amazing, we always want to tell everyone right away! But the single greatest thing in our lives often seems to be the hardest to talk about. Why is that?
On a hot, mid-August day, I rode the mountain bike trails at a place called Griffin Bike Park in West-Central Indiana. I rode all evening until dark. As I always do, I ended up riding way longer, and for many more miles, than I originally intended. One reason this always happens is because I just don’t want to stop riding. The main reason, though, is because I always get lost! I get in the groove and just keep pushing on, always wondering what is down the next trail. My curiosity gets the best of me and while my smile gets wider and wider, so does the distance between me and the car! That’s okay though because some of the best experiences in mountain biking, and in life, are often the unexpected ones.
I had a great time trying out new trails and seeing new parts of the park that I had never seen before. I also got a killer workout and was completely worn out at the end. Despite being exhausted, I still had such a good ride that I wanted to tell someone right away. I was riding alone and was thinking the whole time I was peddling, “what a shame that no one else is here to experience this with me!” I loved it so much that all I could think about was who I could share the moment with and who I could bring along next time so they could experience the seemingly endless trail system for themselves.
When we have good news, discover something new, or do something amazing, we always want to tell everyone we know. We get on social media and post pictures, we text all our friends, and we talk about it the whole next day at work. But why don’t we do that with the Gospel? Is there really any better discovery than the fact that God has given us the chance to have our sins forgiven through the sending of His son? Truly there can be no greater news than this! Why aren’t we telling everyone!?
“I once was lost but now I am found, and I….am too shy to talk about it.”
There’s some sort of disconnect here. Why aren’t we talking to people about Jesus? Is it that we don’t really believe He is who He claims to be? Or are we for some reason ashamed of Him? Why do we have this idea that everyone wants to hear about what we ate for dinner last night, but that no one would want to hear that their sins can be forgiven and they can live guilt free? Why do we want to tell everyone on our news feed about our latest weight loss success and the “new, life-changing product” that made it all possible, but we can’t be bothered to tell them that they can live for eternity with Jesus in Heaven?
Something doesn’t add up here. We need to seriously reevaluate our hearts. Maybe it’s time to do a spiritual inventory to find out what is standing in the way of us telling our closest friends about the greatest thing in this world, and in the next.
Guys, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest story there is! Why does it no longer excite us? We were once completely lost and hopeless. By the grace of God, Jesus died willingly on a cross to take the punishment for our sin. He chose to take our place so we would no longer be condemned. He loves us that much! Then, He rose from the dead three days later, walked out of the grave, and is our living Savior.
How can we be so relaxed and passive about that? Who else has ever done anything even remotely close to something like this? Who else would be willing to die an excruciating, bloody death just for the chance to have a relationship with you? No one on this earth, that’s for sure.
Tell everyone you love about how your life has been changed by this wild ride called faith. Proclaim the good news that He saves (v2). Tell everyone about the amazing things He does (v3). Ask them to hop in the saddle and hit the trails with you.
If you don’t understand what’s so great about this Jesus guy, ask someone! Don’t just take my word for it, come see for yourself what it is like to live life as a follower of Christ.
So listen, don’t miss out on this amazing ride!
Come ride with me!
*If you want to know how you can begin a relationship with Jesus, or take your faith to the next level, contact us today! Click the “CONTACT” button, or email us at email@example.com.
Looking back on the year of 2018, I would like to take a moment to review and reflect on the various books I read throughout the year.
This past year I set out to read as many books as I could in one calendar year. I have never actually kept track of how many I had read at any given time in previous years. Since I have never counted, it is hard to say for sure how many have been logged in the past, but at twenty-five books, I am positive this is the most I have read in a single year in my life.
I have always loved to read, but I was never consistent when it came to dedicating time to reading. I have a bad habit of starting new books before I have finished the previous ones, causing me to have several partially read books sitting around the house. There are just so many books that look interesting to me that I find myself jumping into several at a time. In 2018, I abandoned that practice (well, mostly).
The following is a list of all the books I read in 2018, along with a brief summary, and maybe a review.
My interest in this book was actually sparked by another book I read in 2017 called “The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi” by Robby Gallaty. Reading that book really ignited my fire for learning the stories and themes of the Bible from a 1st century Hebrew perspective, rather than viewing the Bible through the shades of American religious culture. Lois Tverberg is an expert on Jewish culture, customs, and the Hebrew language. Like all of her books, “Reading the Bible With Rabbi Jesus” helped me see the Bible in the context that it was written. Reading the stories in the proper context, with the right knowledge of Hebrew lifestyle during that time, opened me up to a whole new understanding of the scriptures.
After reading Robby Gallaty’s book “The Forgotten Jesus“, I was anxious to read some of his other works. When I picked up “Firmly Planted“, I didn’t realize it was the second book in a three part discipleship series called “Growing Up.” Now that I know this, you better believe I will be heading back to my local bookstore to pick up the other two!
I am a huge Rinella fan. I listen to the Meater Podcast daily, have seen every episode of the Meateater TV show more than once, and have read several of his books. Steve is a masterful writer, blending literature and the outdoors in an almost poetic way. Reading his books makes you feel nostalgic and hungry for outdoor adventure. His words flow so well, like an old classic American writer from yesteryear, that you forget this is not, as Steve would say, an “old timey” author, but just a regular, modern day outdoorsman.
This is the first book I have read by Michael Youssef. In this book, the author points out the threat of aggressive secularism in Western culture, as well as the dangers of radical Islam. Growing up in a country terrorized by radical Islamic rule, Youssef knows first hand what daily life is like in an Islamic State. Yousseff urges Americans to take a hard look at the future of America and to seek to keep Jesus at the center of their lives.
In his book, Meat Eater, Steven Rinella describes a squirrel hunting scenario he experienced as a kid that reminded him of “The Light in the Forest”. Shortly after, while perusing an Amish grocery store, I noticed this book sitting on the shelf. Curiosity got the best of me and I took it home (along with some bulk cooking spices and the best cinnamon roll in the Midwest!). This book, meant for young readers, is a great mix of adventure, history, and drama, all packaged into a short, enjoyable read.
Christianity isn’t a spectator sport. If the extent of your spiritual life is sitting in a pew for forty minutes a week, you are missing out on an incredible journey. Kyle Idleman brings up a really important call to action: Stop being just a fan of Jesus and instead become a completely committed follower!
Written from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, this book is a short read that I zipped through in no time. Take a look into the mind of a notorious Bible villain.
Written in 1949, “The Sand County Almanac” is still one of the finest nature writings to ever be published. Aldo Leopold’s wisdom regarding man’s relationship to the land is unsurpassed. This book is a wealth of knowledge concerning the flora and fauna of America. Every serious hunter/conservationists/outdoor lover needs to buy this book!
This is a gripping story of life in a totalitarian society. At first glance, the circumstances and situations depicted in this book seem futuristic and extreme, but you quickly start to realize that it isn’t as far off from today’s world as you might have originally thought. A terrifying and eye-opening tale of a fictional dystopian society, this classic book will bring you joy, drama, and paranoia all at the same time. Pick it up today! And remember, Big Brother is always watching…
I have long had a fascination with the American bison, or buffalo, as they are often called. I loved reading about how humans have interacted and benefited from buffalo in North America throughout history. The author also tells the story of his own buffalo hunting experience throughout the book. It made me long to go on a buffalo hunt myself, and long for a bison burger! Reading this book will give you a new respect for an animal that has had a humongous impact of American life. At the same time, you will be saddened by the way we as humans, especially in our earlier years, nearly destroyed this amazing natural resource that was once so abundant in our country.
This hilarious satirical guide pokes fun at the quirks of cultural Christianity while subtly challenging us to go deeper and find a true, authentic faith. If you are an uptight, holier-than-thou person, don’t bother reading this book and go back to your boring life. As for everyone else, I think you will find much humor and enjoyment learning to be a “perfect Christian.”
So, you’ve made a decision to follow Jesus. Great! But now what? This book covers the basics for someone who is just peaking into the doorway of Christianity and wants to learn who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him. Often times, new Christians get overwhelmed trying to figure out what to do with their newfound faith. A couple of crucial resources for new believers would be to have other Christians to help guide and encourage them, and a book covering the basics in a down-to-Earth fashion. I read this in just a few days while on an out-of-state hunting trip and it opened the door to a lot of questions about my faith and Christianity in general between myself and the other guys in deer camp. Knowing that beginning a relationship with Jesus is much less intimidating when you have some guidance, I left this book in the lodge for future guests to enjoy, along with a business card tucked in as a bookmark in case the next reader had questions. Use this book as a discipleship tool for those who you’ve had conversations with about Christ.
This book is for that rare person who takes both their Christian faith and their love for hunting seriously. Very seriously! “God, Nimrod, and the World” is more of a scholarly textbook than casual read. It will have you thinking deeply about your place in the world, and your religion, as a sportsman. If there had been courses offered on the topic of Christian perspectives on hunting at the college I attended, I may have paid a little more attention in class!
Another great work by Lois Tverberg. This book focuses on examining the words of Jesus and how they should be interpreted in a Jewish context.
“Animal Farm” is a beautifully crafted allegory symbolizing Russia and the Soviet Union under Communist rule. In reality, however, the farm can represent any society. In this fable, the animals decide to revolt against their oppressive master, the human farmer. After successfully taking over the farm, the animals begin creating their own society and government, led by the pigs. We quickly start to see that this new way of life on Animal Farm is not much different from the oppressive human rule. Arguably, it may even be worse than before. This book points out both the subtle, and the blatantly obvious ways that governments manipulate the various classes of citizens in order to control history and maintain power. I loved every page of this book and now wish I would have had paid more attention to it when it was assigned reading during my freshman year of high school.
With my love for reading and hunting, I thought this combination was sure to be a slam dunk. I thought wrong. This will probably shock a lot of people who read classic fiction authors, but I wasn’t that into “Big Woods”. I just wasn’t really getting the draw. Am I missing something? Because it seems like I should have loved this. Please, someone reach out to me to help me better appreciate this collection of Faulkner’s stories, because I really wanted to love this book!
It is time that we admit that are living in a post-Christian society. But, take heart! As Matt Chandler points out in this book, Christianity has always thrived in the margins of society! It is here, on the fringes, that Christians can be intentional about spreading the message of Jesus Christ in an authentic way, as opposed to the watered down Gospel that has been coasting along in the comforts of Western culture.
If you’ve felt a little pinned up lately and in need of some adventure, pick up this book! Roger transforms you into another place and time as you ride shotgun in his van through the great American West, catch fish out of mountain streams, and discover new hole-in-the-wall taco joints along the way. If you are looking for a book to awaken your soul, this is it! My only complaint about the book is that it ended.
I read all of Jefferson Bethke’s books that I can get my hands on, and I have no trouble getting my hands on books! Together with his wife, Alyssa, Jeff brings light to the many lies our culture tells us about love, marriage, and sex. The way we are approaching love in our society is not working. Don’t you think it is about time we tried something different? The Bethke’s are doing just that, and they will tell you how you can too.
I have always had a fascination with Native American culture and history. Luckily for me, my father-in-law does too. Therefore, he keeps me in-the-know on all things American Indian. I grabbed this book off of a stack he loaned me and began learning the details about the many different tribes throughout North America and how they differ. This is a handy guide for basic knowledge of Native American life throughout history.
A heavy, convicting call to action. The way most of us are “doing church” doesn’t line up with the Bible’s view of a community of believers. Francis Chan points out his own mistakes as a pastor and challenges the rest of us to rethink how we are operating our churches and how we are working together as church members to accomplish the mission of Christ. You may just find that the way you currently think of “church” isn’t really what is reflected in the Bible.
I have owned this book for around ten years and finally got around to reading it. I had intentions of reading it right away because of its huge popularity. Though the cover art has changed since then, it is still very popular today, and for good reason. If you have ever been intimidated by people telling you Christianity is a fairy tale or that there is no proof for what you believe, this book will give you all the confidence you need to defend your faith. There is overwhelming proof for Jesus in both religious and non-religious texts and history. This book maps it all out for you in one very eye-opening journey.
My church gives these away to parents who are dedicating their children to God at an event we call “Family Dedication Day”. During this time, church members agree to partner with parents to help them raise their children in a Godly way. This is a tiny little book that can be read in one sitting but it is deeply impactful. “Don’t Miss It” points out that your time with your children is precious and fleeting. For instance, did you know that parents only have approximately 936 weeks from the time your child is born until they graduate from high school? Really think about that. That isn’t really that much time. It really makes you rethink how you spend your weekends (and every day) when you picture your weeks counting down to 0. Your time with your kids is limited. Don’t miss it.
I am a hunting fanatic. More specifically, I am a squirrel hunting fanatic! There are few books that focus solely on small game hunting and there are none that go into this much detail. Like the title says, this is a complete guide for all things small game and bird hunting. It covers everything from start to finish. You will find what gear to pack, what ammunition and equipment is best suitable for different situations, how to process your game after it has been harvested, fun facts about your quarry, and so much more. You will find yourself referring back to this guide over and over as you seek out different hunting strategies and recipes season after season.
The Bible is the single most important book to me. It is the only book I read consistently every day. I haven’t always, though. I wasn’t reading the Bible regularly until I came to the realization that a person who confesses to be a Christian needs to have read the Bible… the whole Bible. For most of my life I couldn’t honestly say that I had read the entire thing. I became convicted that reading only portions of the Bible is not acceptable for someone who follows Christ. From that point, I made it a goal to read through the Bible in a year. After seeing just how attainable that goal was, I decided to continue it with each new year. You would be surprised just how easy it is to read through the Bible when you use a manageable reading plan. I talk about this in length in both “Daily Pursuit” and “My Year in the Bible“, so I won’t go into it here, but just know, I have benefited from this book more than any other and it has ignited my passion for God, and for reading, in an unimaginable way!
As you can see, I have a wide variety of tastes when it comes to books. There are a lot of factors that determine how I choose a new book. Obviously, my own personal interests have a huge impact on what I read, but I also read books on topics that I have no experience in as a way to educate myself. Reading is about knowledge as well as entertainment. I like to read a range of different genres, ideas, and topics to ensure I never stop learning.
That being said, I always have a rather long list of “To Be Reads” comprised of books that I have come across that seem interesting to me or have been recommended by others. I do my best to tackle this list but its every-growing nature doesn’t allow me to ever actually complete it. There are just so many more books available than there is time to read them all, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
I know many of you consistently surpass twenty-five books a year by a long shot, and I am already hard at work to beat that number during 2019. Perhaps I should have added another 65 books to my list, considering The Bible is actually a compilation of 66 books! In all seriousness, quantity of books read per year isn’t necessarily my top priority. Quality and content plays a bigger role for me.
I hope you find this list helpful and that you see one that sparks your interest the way it did mine. 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 insightful things to add to my list!
What are you reading right now?
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.
No one ever said it would be easy. No one ever said it would be comfortable. And no one ever said it would be safe. Anyone who told you the Christian life was any of those things was either lying or, at the very least, misinformed. Christianity is not a place a person goes to retire from a wild, chaotic world. Following Jesus means following Him into battle. And following Jesus means following Him to the grave.
So, you have decided to follow Jesus. That is great! But I have read the book and the elephant in the room is this: Jesus dies. The harsh reality is that you will too. (Spoiler Alert: He was resurrected, but you will not be- at least not on this earth). Sure, we will all die one day, there is no avoiding that, but I am actually not talking about physical death though, at least not yet. What I am saying is, if we are going to follow Christ, we must die to ourselves every day. Every single day we will have to make the decision to die to our own ambitions, our own pride, and our own selfishness. Once we have been redeemed by Christ, we no longer live for ourselves.
Comfort, convenience, and even safety are no longer our highest priority when we become followers of Christ. These, and all other things, take a backseat to our new commitment to Jesus. Now that we have said “Yes” to Jesus, we have checked the box that we agree to the terms and conditions. Some of those conditions may not be sunny and smooth. It gets muddy in the trenches, but I would rather be in the trenches with Jesus than on the boardwalk without Him.
It is time to give up your addictions. It is time to give up your hardheartedness. It is time to leave your selfishness behind. Let go of your grudges. When you give all that stuff to God, it is dead to you. You can live a new life. One that is not concerned with the petty things of this world, but is focused solely on the eternal things of God. Cash in all that baggage for the eternal reward of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Suit up and stand firm, because things could get messy. Being a Christian isn’t about being a body in a pew. It is about being a soldier in the battle between good and evil. Are you ready to fight?
As Christians, we are supposed to be modeling our lives after Jesus Christ (hence the term CHRISTian). But what about when things get hard? Everybody wants to experience the power and the glory, but what about His suffering? Can you stick with Him even through persecution, hardship, and danger?
If you want to see how Jesus reacts to potentially dangerous situations, read John 7. Jesus knows the Jewish leaders are looking for a way to kill Him (v1), yet He casually shows up at the Festival of Tabernacles anyway (v10). He starts preaching at the festival, knowing full well that it is dangerous and may cost Him His life (v14). Everyone in the crowd attending the festival knows that the officials want to kill Jesus. It is a well known fact. People recognize Him and are surprised He is there speaking (v25). So, it’s not like Jesus thought He could just blend in and not get caught. He knew the risk and did it anyway because the message was more important than His safety. He trusted in God’s timing for when He was to be given over.
Do you ever knowingly walk into danger? Would you purposely walk into a place where you knew people were going to try to kill you? My guess would be you would take every measure to avoid that kind of situation! Jesus knew this was an extremely dangerous event to attend, but He also knew the importance of the message He needed to share. The mission overshadowed His concern for personal safety. Plus, He trusted in the Father’s timing. When deciding if you should speak up, do you stop to consider how others will react first? Or do you just step up to the plate and deliver? Knowing how crucial it is that people hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, shouldn’t that be our number one priority, even at the risk of our safety or our pride?
I will leave you with some questions to consider:
I think Jesus is asking us the same thing He asked the sons of Zebedee: “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?“. They too wanted to share in His glory without any of the sacrifice. (Matthew 20:20-23)
Are you really ready to be like Jesus? Would you lose your life in order to follow Him? Because there is a disturbing pattern I have noticed among church goers:
They all want to be like Jesus, but they don’t want to have to die.
The term “trophy hunting” gets thrown around a lot these days. I hear it used mostly among the non-hunting crowd. I don’t quite know what to think of that term, but it just feels negative. I guess the reason it feels that way is because it is so commonly used by animal rights groups and anti-hunters as a way to insinuate that hunters are only interested in an animal mount to hang on their wall. They would like to have the general public believe that hunters are only interested in killing and bloodshed for their own selfish gain.
That is not always the case, though. In fact, the term “trophy hunting” itself is confusing to me. Who decides what a trophy is? Does a trophy have the same value for everyone? Does a trophy always mean the same thing to everyone? Is a trophy always something physical, or can it be tied to a setting or an experience? When determining a trophy, does it reference only such things as size, measurements, weight, or age? Or can a trophy also be linked to a memorable moment or accomplishment? The desired outcome of a hunt is so vastly different for each individual that it is hard to label such a thing.
Pondering these things caused me to think about my own intentions in the field. Perhaps it would be good for us all to take an inventory of what it is we are seeking in the woods, and in life.
So, let us consider this question: Of the animals you’ve killed while hunting, if you had to choose between keeping, A) The head/antlers, or B) The body/meat, which would you choose? Would your answer be the same if it was a giant “trophy” buck with huge antlers? Why did you choose the way you did? What factors do you consider when making this choice?
The point in this self evaluation is not to argue over which choice is “right” or “wrong”. You have no one to answer to for the response you give. I just think, as hunters, we need to know why we do what we do. 1 Peter 3:15 says we should always be prepared to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ. In the same way, we should also be prepared to defend our hunting practices and ethics.
Before I get to my opinion on which I would choose, first let me share a couple of the reasons that I hunt:
I hunt for the overall experience. I enjoy being involved in every aspect of the hunt. From planning and mapping, to scouting for sign, to hanging tree stands, to pulling the trigger, and then all the way to butchering the meat. I get satisfaction from putting in the effort to do all of those things. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I look back on a successful hunt that has come to fruition. Even when no one else is around and there is no deer in the bed of my truck, I can still feel like my day in the outdoors has been a success. With each hunt I gain more memories and more experiences, even if I don’t add extra meat to the freezer.
I hunt for myself, not for others.
Now back to the question of which part of the deer we would choose to keep, if we could only choose one or the other: If it were me, I would choose the meat every time. That’s because I know the reason I hunt. I hunt for sustenance. I hunt to provide. Food is my primary reason for hunting any type of animal. No, I do not depend solely on wild game to survive. The luxury of grocery stores has greatly diminished our need for killing, or growing, our own food. I won’t even pretend that I do it for survival, but I do hunt mainly for food. I prefer to harvest and handle my own meat as a way to stay active in, and attached to, the process, rather then someone else doing it for me.
I hunt for food, not fame.
Now let me ask another question. If you had to choose one or the other, would you choose God or money? I know the Sunday School answer. I’m asking you to take an honest inventory of what things are most important in your life. Would you be willing to give up your money in order to be closer to God? Where does your faith lie? In your ability to provide for yourself, or God’s ability to provide for you?
“I began to read the Holy Scriptures upon my knees, laying aside all other books, and praying over, if possible, every line and word. This proved meat indeed and drink indeed to my soul. I daily received fresh life, light and power from above.”
A trophy deer head on the wall is something that brings surface level, temporary satisfaction. It might help you gain new friends, or impress old ones. It may even get you a lot of attention or even fame if your animal is a state or world record. But those antlers won’t feed you. In the same way, your money can’t give you all that you need. It can’t fill you up.
I will always choose the things that fill me up, whether that be physical meals, or spiritual sustenance. That is why I pray that God will fill me, that He will use me, that He will carry me. I trust that He will provide for me. I don’t pray that He will give me more money so that I can provide for myself.
When it comes to blessings from Heaven, I don’t want watered down trophy money. I want the meat!