We’ve never seen anything like it! I could be addressing the global pandemic, political polarization, racial tension, unfettered anarchy, spiritual apathy, antagonism toward the church and Christianity, or a number of other topics. Everyone has opinions about how to solve our problems, but the source of our trouble goes deep—real deep.
The real problem is a spiritual one! The only thing that will change people’s hearts is the Heart Changer—Jesus Christ. It must start with the church, however. I don’t think there are too many Christians out pillaging the land in the name of social reform, but a lot of Christians have hidden, or not so hidden, prejudice in their hearts toward other races. A lot of us struggle with political hatred toward people in a party different than the one with which we most closely associate. We need a sweeping movement of God, and it has to start with the church.
Second Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I hate to say it but the fault of spiritual deprivation in our land falls squarely on followers of Jesus because we haven’t been following Him quite as we should. For many years, we haven’t been the salt and the light Jesus called us to be, and we are now reaping the consequences of our negligence. As we prepare to celebrate our country’s birthday, let’s celebrate it on our knees. Let’s get our hearts right first as followers of Jesus and then pray for our land. Let’s put some feet to our prayers and repentance and work to build relationships with people who are not like us in some way, and let’s openly share the wonderful message of the gospel with people who are hungry for real change. Our country is dying to know Jesus.
Many are “sheltering at home,” but what should we be doing during this time? God wasn’t surprised by the coronavirus, and He wants to use this time in your life. This is not a parenthesis in your life. No one hit pause. Actually, God wants to use this unusual experience to grow you to be more like His Son. Not only can we accomplish some things around our home we’ve been putting off, but we can also work on our own personal growth and spiritual life.
We should focus on several activities that will help us to grow. I urge you to spend time in prayer, reading your Bible, worshipping the Lord, and playing with your family. I also encourage you to read books. You will find many wonderful books God can use to feed your soul, speak hope to your circumstances, develop your mind, and lead you to laugh.
A member of my church suggested I put together a list of good books to read while many stay at home. I read a lot of books on many different topics. Although some would interest you, others would not be beneficial. I will share with you a list of a few books I think would be helpful to anyone, regardless of their unique interests.
I’d love to hear back from you on additional books you’ve enjoyed that I didn’t include on my list. I’m creating a list of “The Ten Books Everyone Should Read” for a book I’m writing now called “How to Cultivate the Fruit of Success.” Please share with me your favorites.
I read a lot more nonfiction books, so my list of fiction doesn’t come from a hefty repertoire of books. I’m also confident I’m forgetting a title that’s awesome, but I’ll do my best. So as not to make this blog too long, I’ll share my suggestion of nonfiction books today, and I’ll write about a few fiction titles in my next blog. I’m including links to Amazon where you can read more about them, but I’m sure they’re available from any retailer that sells books. After the list, I’ll share a few thoughts about each book.
Knowing God by J. I. Packer is possibly my favorite theological book on the character and nature of God. It’s a little heavier book to read, but it’s well worth the effort. Every Christian should read it. Prodigal Godby Timothy Keller was eye-opening for me when I read it a few years ago. It has a powerful message about God’s nature and our reaction to His immeasurable love! Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozier is also an excellent book on God’s nature and easy to read as a daily devotional.
You will find many wonderful books on living the Christian life. One of my favorites is Joseph Stowell’s Following Christ. I found that Lifetime Guarantee by Bill Gillham presents one of the clearest pictures I’ve seen of what it means to live the “crucified life.” Nik Ripken’s The Insanity of God will challenge you to live the Christian life faithfully as you read a true story of believers who have given everything to follow Jesus. God has used Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life(the new edition is called What on Earth am I Here For?) in a phenomenal way to lead people to trust Christ and to consider what it means to live out your purpose.
One of my favorite books on spiritual growth is John Ortberg’s The Life You’ve Always Wanted (I’ve enjoyed every book of Ortberg’s I’ve ever read). I loved Richard Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline many years ago and was profoundly impacted by it, and I found Ortberg’s book to make the idea of spiritual disciplines a lot more accessible. I recommend both books. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala will lead you to celebrate the power of God and long for a fresh movement of God in your own life. A friend recommended I read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. I read it after hearing Mark speak at a conference. It’s a powerful book on prayer.
It would help everyone to read Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It is a practical and applicable book on personal growth, life management, and discipline. You’ll want to study the principles and determine how you will live them out in your life. Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover will change your life and guide you into debt-free living. Finally, Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis should be read and studied by every human on the planet. It offers a powerful presentation of the meaning of Christianity.
I’ve written a few books you may also find encouraging. Some are a resource for spiritual growth and will help you grow a passionate relationship with Jesus. I’ve also written a few books to help writers be more effective as an author. You can find them described here.
I’d like to hear from you. Please share in the comments titles of additional books that you think should make the list. Happy reading.
Choosing faith is a life-long pursuit. We sometimes relegate Christianity to only a choice in time. Don’t get me wrong. It begins with a choice in time, and once you choose Jesus, you are His. However, I want us to understand that Christianity is also a daily choice of following Jesus. Salvation has not only a past tense where we were saved from the penalty of sin, but it also has a present tense where we are being saved from the power of sin in our lives and a future tense where we will one day be saved from the presence of sin.
Faith can also be viewed in three tenses: we had faith that saved us, we have faith that is delivering us, and we will have faith that will transport us into the presence of Almighty God.
How do we keep choosing faith? First Timothy 6:11-12 offers the solution: “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
Look at the three commands of this passage: flee, pursue, and fight. Flee from something that is hindering your walk with Christ, pursue everything that strengthens your relationship with Christ, and fight anything that is threatening your victory in Christ.
Do you see a common thread with each of the three commands? Flee, pursue, and fight all call for intensity, effort, and commitment. If you’re going to really trust Jesus, you need to be all in! Just testing the water doesn’t work in Christianity. Giving God one day a week or two days a month is not real Christianity. True faith, saving faith, is 110%.
I urge you to jump into the deep end of the pool. Go after Jesus with everything in you, and you’ll find that He’s already given everything to go after you.
Have you ever been as determined as ever to have faith but found yourself wavering? I have. What do you do? Where do you go to find faith? Consider the words of Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.”
Notice in this passage, we are admonished to go to the Scripture. In today’s 15 Days of Faith video, I talk about finding faith from the Word of God. Look carefully at this passage and see an additional idea.
First of all, imagine the Apostle Paul being inspired to write this passage. What do you think he had in mind when he said that faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ? We naturally imagine a leather-bound copy of God’s Word. That’s not what Paul had in mind. Of course, this passage definitely points to the Bible, but it also points to more.
Whenever Paul chose a Greek term for “word,” he didn’t use a term that would have pointed to the written, inspired Scripture. The Greek word refers to a spoken word. Now, I know that the Bible is God’s spoken Word to us put in a written form, but I want to emphasize the fact that God is speaking His truth.
Growing in our faith means that we not only need to read God’s Word, but we also need to listen. God wants to speak truth to our hearts. He’ll use the written Word, but He’ll also speak His truth in the stillness of our hearts. If we want faith to grow, we need to listen.
The Bible uses the word “sovereignty” to talk about God’s reign as the King over our lives and over the world. God is the one true King. Colossians 1:16-17 refers to God’s supreme, sovereign place in our lives and the world:
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Since God is the Sovereign King, we should always submit to His authority. This calls for faith and obedience. Sometimes, our faith is challenged, but we should trust Him anyway. In today’s 15 Days of Faith video, I share some thoughts about the Old Testament story of three young men who were challenged to trust God even when it could mean their deaths.
As we consider the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is your understanding of total trust challenged? I mention in the video that these three young men showed total faith in God’s ability and total trust in God’s agenda.
We know that God is able, right? He’s God! What does it mean to trust God’s agenda? Well, it means that God is God and you are not. It means that since God is sovereign, and you’re not, that you will follow God’s agenda and not your own. Following God’s agenda can be challenging. It shouldn’t be challenging because we understand that God knows everything, and His ways are always right and best.
Why do we ever prefer our own agendas? Great question. The problem is that I don’t know the answer other than we’re stubborn and obstinate. Maybe I should throw in the word “sinners” as well.
I think this global pandemic is calling us to a closer walk with God. Will you choose to submit to God’s sovereign rule over your life today?
You can watch today’s video by clicking this link.
Have you ever turned a lemon into lemonade? We’ve all heard that saying before, I’m sure. It’s the process of taking a bad situation and turning it into something good.
Mark 2 tells the familiar story of a group of friends who brought a paralytic to Jesus to be healed. The thing that probably sticks out in the story is the determination of the friends. The crowds were thick around Jesus, and they couldn’t get close. They went up onto the roof, dug out the dirt and sticks from which the roof was made, and lowered their lame friend down to the feet of Jesus.
The Bible says that Jesus was amazed at the friends’ faith and at first, responded to their faith and not that of the paralytic.
In today’s video, I challenge all of us to think about how our faith can bring about good in other people’s lives. Faith can be contagious. How can yours be contagious?
Think also about those friends. They were determined. They went to a great effort to help their friend be healed. What effort will you go to so that your friends can encounter Jesus during this time? They may be more open to spiritual things, and your effort could be the very thing that leads them to seriously consider God’s offer of grace.
How will your faith be so contagious that others are infected by it?
Anxiety or worry is almost as normal as breathing. However, God commands us not to be afraid. We saw in yesterday’s blog the Word of God tells us that worry is actually a sin. What do we do about it? Well, we saw we should pray about everything and worry about nothing. Today we’ll back up a couple of verses from yesterday’s scripture:
Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord, always; again, I say rejoice.”
In today’s video, I share a wonderful definition of joy. I hope you’ll watch it. I’d like to focus this blog on a six-letter word in this verse: always. God says that we are to always rejoice. Really? Is God serious? Yes! He says that we can choose to find joy in every circumstance. How is that possible?
It’s possible when we believe and accept the fact that God is always in control. The Bible tells us that He is sovereign. This means that God is in charge and worthy of my trust and devotion. I can choose joy when I choose to trust God and know that He is working for my good and His glory. I may not be able to understand all of the details or be able to figure out the solution to my situation, but I can have the confidence to know that God is at work in my life. I encourage you to choose joy.
I wish I had an antidote for the Coronavirus I could offer to the world. Wouldn’t that be great? I do have an antidote for the fear caused by the spread of the virus. In today’s video, I talk about this antidote: prayer. I share this antidote from Philippians 4:6-7. I’d like to share a few additional thoughts in this blog. First, look again at Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I need to stress that this verse begins with an actual command: Don’t be anxious. Have you ever thought of worry as a sin? Well, God says it is. This passage clearly states that anxiety is a choice. We can choose to worry, or we can choose to trust. How in the world can you overcome anxiety and embrace trust? The answer is prayer.
God tells us to pray, and this passage uses two important words that underscore attitudes we should demonstrate with our prayer. The first attitude is desperation. The word “supplication” comes from a Greek word that means to plead or even beg. The fact is that we are always desperate and dependent upon God. The spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus is just a reminder that we really are not self-sufficient. We need God! So, cry out to Him.
The second attitude is gratitude. God wants us to be thankful. One of the greatest ways to overcome anxiety is to count your many blessings? You can always find blessings in every circumstance. Focus on your blessings and not your struggles. Choose thanksgiving instead of worry.
When we do that, our hearts and minds are open to the peace of God. This peace serves as sentry soldiers to set up guard over our emotions and our will. When our emotions are in check, we’re free to love others and help others in Jesus’ name. When our minds are clear, we’re free to think properly and make wise decisions.
Are you afraid? Don’t be. Trust the Lord. Don’t worry about anything; pray about everything.
God is unique and creative. He doesn’t always do things the same way, and He doesn’t usually do things the way I would do them. Has God ever surprised you with a strategy to solve a problem? Throughout history, God has used unique ways to address challenges. I spoke of one of those times in today’s video, and the story is recorded in Joshua 6. It was God’s strategy to defeat Jericho. God told Joshua: “You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. Also, seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets” (Josh 6:3-4).
You’re probably familiar with the story and know that God’s plan worked. The walls fell down and Jericho was defeated. Why did it work? It worked because God did it. God gave Joshua a crazy strategy because He wanted Israel to know that He would always fight their battles for them.
This is an important word for us today. God will always fight our battles for us. We can trust Him. This truth means that we need to keep our eyes on the Lord and follow Him. Trust Him even when we don’t see how things will turn out. God may not address a situation the way we would but trust Him anyway. God’s got it! God can handle it! Trust in the Lord.
America was built upon the efforts of people trying to do the impossible. I’m convinced that one reason our country became such a strong nation is because we were built upon a foundation of the Word of God, and we were willing to follow a God Who does the impossible every day. Because God is not limited by the things that limit us, it doesn’t surprise me that He calls us to a life of faith. He even says, “The just will live by faith.”
In my last blog, I mentioned the scripture in Joshua 1 where Moses died, and Joshua became the new leader of Israel. Joshua was tested right away when he had to lead Israel across a river that was impossible to ford. God, however, specializes in the impossible. He told Joshua to lead His people straight through the river, but of course, they would cross on dry ground. In other words, God was going to perform the same miracle through Joshua at the Jordan River as He did with Moses at the Red Sea.
One significant thing about this story is that the water didn’t part for Joshua until the priests stepped into the water. Picture this: the priest walk toward a raging river (the Bible says it was flood season), and the water doesn’t change until the priests’ feet are in the water. It makes me think about the exciting and even supernatural things I’ve missed out on in my life because I didn’t move forward when God nudged me to do so.
Is there anything in your life where you feel God is urging you forward? It may be with sharing your faith with someone who is not a believer or possibly a business decision. God wants to work in every area of your life. This unique season in our lives can be a time to remind us that God is sovereign, and He wants to do the impossible through us if we’ll let Him.