My Favorite Growing Up Books of The Decade

Each one of these books has impacted me, challenged me, or shaped how I live. I can point to each one and tell you that because of this book I now do X or have become Y. Few things in life have that kind of influence. Pick one up and see for yourself. I threw in some non-spiritual/non-philosophical favorite books at the end just for fun.

Water to Wine – Brian Zahnd (A pastor’s unlikely journey)

Good and Beautiful Community – James Bryan Smith (Led and taught out of this book repeatedly)

Fire of the Word – Chris Webb (Scripture has often intimidated me. This book inspired me to embrace scripture for all that it can be)

Called to Be Saints – Gordon T Smith (This book made me want to Grow Up and for all the right reasons)

Becoming Dallas Willard – Gary Moon (I always wondered if Willard was just a spiritual savant or if he really grew into his Christlikeness. This book does a good job of trying to answer that)

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Unapologetic – Francis Spufford (Not an easy read but many of his points have shaped the way I think and talk about my faith over the last 10 years.)

God’s Forever Family – Larry Eskridge (Christians like to get nostalgic about the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th Centuries but the Jesus Movement of the late 60s and early 70s was a true revival and one of the weirdest phenomenons of the 20th Century. This book tries to describe that movement.)

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12 Rules For Life – Jordan Peterson (I would love the ability to take intelligent, profound ways of thinking and explain them in a way that the skeptics and intelligentia have to take notice)

The Pastor– Eugene Peterson (I quote this book much more than I ever thought I would. Peterson was a saint and any chance there is to learn more about him and how God worked in his life is worth the read)

Other Books That I Loved

Just Kids – Patti Smith

Four-Hour Body – Timothy Ferriss

Building a Story Brand – Donald Miller

11/22/63 – Stephen King

Born to Run – Christopher McDougall

What I Learned In 2019

One…A cure for worry induced insomnia. “Earlier this year, I found myself in a situation where there was much on my mind and my penchant for pessimism had turned to depressive thoughts and barely controlled worry. I was stuck in a mind loop that I couldn’t get out of and it was keeping me up at night. So, I just started reading the Psalms…As I read, and it didn’t take long, my anxiety, that included a disturbed stomach, began to dissipate and the heaviness of the moment turned to calm and a sense of relief. I found myself relaxing and dozing off.”

Two…Like a baby who craves a parent’s affectionate attention, what we need is Christ and his attention and he so longs to give it to us.

Three…And like the children who couldn’t get enough of Jesus, I can be a little friend of Jesus and live in the reality of Jesus in the present.

Four…Man’s power versus God’s power. “A man has power from the outside to push, pull, prod, and mold other men to his liking, for his good or for theirs, but it is only the outside of these other men that his power can affect. But the power of God’s love expands your world, opens you up to receive love from others, brings light to the dark, helps you get up when you are down and generates peace when it is nowhere to be found.”

Five…I found a simple go-to prayer that keeps me praying throughout the day.

Six…Jesus seems to prefer the ordinary. “He certainly can use the miraculous and the profound but he isn’t above using a meal or some kids running around or an ordinary argument among friends.”

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Seven…Perseverance is not a dirty word. “The Bible doesn’t see perseverance as something to avoid but to embrace. In fact, it seems to be an essential part of Growing Up. Paul, in a letter to the Christians in Rome, says that we should “glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” James uses even more elaborate language. He says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

Seven…God doesn’t share my pessimism.

Eight…The reality of Spiritual Seasons. That all aspects of our lives have seasons and the spiritual life is no different. Mark Buchanan’s book, Spiritual Rhythm, taught me about the season that I believe I find myself in, Winter. He references Psalm 88 where the author states, “Darkness is my closest friend.” Bleak stuff but a possible part of life. Better to acknowledge it than to run from it.

Nine…Smiling at Wal-Mart turns a huge, annoying chore into an adventure.

Ten…The most important thing about me is who I am becoming.

Eleven…The danger of the Promise Land mentality. “I have been guilty of turning situations in my life into a kind of Promise Land. I think that if this one thing will change, then everything else will fall into place and life will be the way it is supposed to be. But that one thing might not be the point or what God wants to do with my life. The point may be for me to Grow Up, to learn to trust, to experience his presence, to find rest in him, to die to self. My Promise Land may be right in front of me in the transforming work of Christ and his redeeming love and mercy. A relationship with the almighty was good enough in the end for Moses, it should be good enough in the end for me.”

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Twelve…Your beliefs must have skin on them. “None of what Jesus accomplished on the cross and through his resurrection means anything unless individual lives are changed and futures transformed. That is theology that is truly incarnational.”

Thirteen…Religion is easier than trust.

Fourteen…Christians don’t need Kanye West. ‘Jesus is not Lord because Kanye West has proclaimed him such or because a certain person was elected to office. Jesus has already been inaugurated and has already taken office at the right hand of the Father.”

Fifteen…Sin is a failure to bother to love.

 

Would You Become Your Dog?

Jesus loved us so much that he became one of us. That is the wonder of Christmas.

I love my dog but I would never want to become him.

That would mean that I would put on the limitations that he has as a dog. As a human becoming dog, I would operate on instinct rather than inspiration and creativity. My range of emotions and feelings would be limited and sparse. Any power I possessed would only be confined to a few senses that for the most part wouldn’t benefit any one else but myself. I would lose an awareness of the larger world around me. I would lose imagination and the ability to improve myself on my own.

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This is the limiting and confined experience that Jesus gladly took on when he became one of us. Christ, the Son of God, “did not see equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Is there a more beautiful and amazing piece of scripture in all of the Bible than those words?

In another spot in scripture, it says that in Jesus we have a leader who can be “touched with the feelings of our weeknesses.” Paul Brand and Philip Yancey state, “God wasn’t satisfied enough to just love us from a distance but came along side us.”

Though Jesus was all divine and all human the packaging of the flesh and bone must have been so burdensome and fraught with potential problems that Jesus must have had moments of clear bewilderment at his existence on this Earth. Yet, he chose the incarnation to serve us, to demonstrate love to us, to teach us, to heal us, to cover us with mercy, to live a life that no one else could live so that he could die a death that no one else could die to bring us new life that no one else could bring.

God’s son loved us enough to become us. Who would do that? That is the wonder of Jesus that we celebrate each year at Christmas.