One thing that I love to do at Christmas is READ.
I have days off when nothing is expected of me, and I can curl up with a good book and think without being as distracted as normal.
And so I thought that perhaps some of my readers, like me, find Christmas one of their prime reading times.
Today, then, I decided to share with you 10 Christian books I have read this year that have had a profound effect on me. Some are practical, some challenge me spiritually, and some are like a warm blanket that bring such peace.
So here goes–10 Christian books that changed my life this year.
1. As Soon as I Fell by Kay Bruner
Oh, my goodness.
This is absolutely the best book I have read in ages.
What happens if you grow up thinking, “My life is about JOY–Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last”? Then you combine that with the theory that “There’s no place safer to be than in the center of God’s will”, along with the idea that if we are true disciples we will work HARD for Jesus?
You think the more miserable you are the more godly you are.
You end up a missionary on a translation project in your twenties in Indonesia, making food for your family out of tree bark; watching your daughter have seizures without any medical help; contemplating tying off your own cervical polyp yourself, since no medical clinic here is safe enough (and you have to bring your own flashlight for them to take a look at you); and lying on dirty mats on the floor of a rickety boat for over 24 hours, with a 4 week old baby on your breast.
And no matter how depressed you get, and how tired you get, you keep going, because that’s what a good Christian girl does.
Even when your gifts aren’t being used and you’re totally out of your element.
Even when you never see your husband because he works so hard, and you have no one else to talk to because you can’t speak the language.
Even when you find out that your husband is addicted to porn, and you finally give up one day. You break. You can’t keep going.
And in that brokenness, you finally learn who God really is.
It is such a wonderful memoir. I couldn’t put it down.
It’s a story of a couple coming out of legalism and into the joy of the Lord–and finding they can still serve Him, just in different ways.
It’s a story of a woman learning that God does not only care about our results, but also deeply cares about our feelings.
And it’s a beautiful story of how messed up our Christian lives become when we miss the message of grace.
I’ve seen so many elements of her story in the blog comments here, and I’m going to spend a few posts running some excerpts of this amazing book in the new year.
But if you want something riveting to read, try this at Christmas. It’s the closest thing to a novel on the list, but it will also grow your faith in tremendous ways.
(Oh, and they did finish that translation project, and God brought amazing closure to their work in Indonesia. But He also brought them through serving out of guilt to serving out of joy.)
Waiting on God: What to Do when God Does Nothing by Wayne Stiles
I thought I knew everything there was to know about the Old Testament story of Joseph.
I was so wrong.
And this year, as I have been in a place of waiting, I found this book so helpful. I’d journal a question, and then read a chapter, and it was like God was speaking directly to me.
Here’s one of the most basic lessons: We often read in Scripture tremendous stories of faith. Yet,
We need to remember that between significant events in the Bible lay large gaps of time.
All those heroes of the faith often had months if not years of God being silent, of promises yet to be fulfilled.
What do you do in those in-between times?
Since we’re going to wait anyway, we might as well wait well.
If you’re going through a period of waiting, I can’t recommend this book highly enough! And I feel like I finally GET the Joseph story, too.
Your God is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan
One of the first books I read in my new devotions regimen, this one changed the way I looked at spiritual disciplines. In fact, Mark challenged so many of my assumptions about what daily Christian living looks like!
It’s so fun to read. He puts a different spin on so many stories, which I find fascinating. And then he makes a great case that we need to actually practice if we want to grow in Christ.
I love this take on the role of doubt:
For the place God calls us into isn’t doubt free—how can any place where we walk by faith and not by sight be that? No, the holy wild is where we have driving and haunting doubts, God-hungry doubts that pull us to our knees, force us to the Word, make us wrestle all night and not let go until He blesses us. The holy wild throngs with true skeptics.
And he says this about spiritual discipline:
Holy habits are that: the disciplines, the routines by which we stay alive and focused on Him. At first we choose them and carry them out; after a while they are part of who we are. And they carry us.
After reading this, for the first time I got truly excited about devotions. And I’ve developed a new eye for them. A great book to help you really grow.
True Love Dates by Deb Fileta
A few years ago, when my children were young, I would have told you that “I Kissed Dating Good-Bye” was the way to go for finding a mate. No dating as a teen, and then date only to marry.
As my girls grew older, and as I started receiving more and more emails from women who grew up in that culture, I began to wonder if something was wrong. Were we were becoming legalistic, and missing out on the aspect of just enjoying other people’s company?
So this year I’ve read a ton of books on dating and courtship, because I want to do a series on it in the new year.
Here’s one of the better ones. And the main point she makes:
Chase after Jesus, as fast as you can. And after you’ve run a little way, turn around and see who’s managed to run with you and stay with you. Marry that person.
Jesus first. Then the rest will fall into place. But don’t put up obstacles to meeting people. A great and godly balance!
Ask It by Andy Stanley
When I was in the Waterbrook headquarters just before 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, my editor handed me a bunch of their books she thought I’d enjoy. She put this book in the pile. It had nothing to do with marriage, and she hesitated a second, but then said, “I just think you’d like it.”
She was right.
For people who have ever wondered how to make decisions, or have ever wondered why they keep making bad ones, Andy Stanley shares with you the one question–really the ONLY question–you ever need to ask.
And then he shows you how to live it.
As Stanley says,
While nobody plans to mess up his life, the problem is that few of us plan not to.
He shows you how to plan not to.
I’ve made so many people read this book–people who are 20 and people who are 70. It’s brilliant. It’s not too long, but it’s awesome. Easy to read. Lots of anecdotes. And full of wisdom.
A Lifelong Love by Gary Thomas
Gary’s written a lot about how God’s main concern is our holiness, not our happiness, and how marriage is one of God’s primary vehicles to grow our character.
But does that mean that God doesn’t care if our marriages are miserable?
Not at all! And in his newest book, Gary shows how to create a marriage that doesn’t just exist, but that thrives.
A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make.
And he shows us how! One of the best marriage books I’ve read in a long time.
And if you live in the Toronto area, I’ll have the great pleasure of sharing the stage with Gary for a one-day marriage event at Queensway Cathedral in April. More info soon!
Paperless Home Organization by Mystie Winckler
I read this book when it was part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle last spring. I read it at night. And then I went to bed. And then I finally got up at 4:30 a.m. to start putting her ideas into practice because I was so excited about it I couldn’t sleep!
She shows you how you need only three programs–Gmail, Evernote, and Remember the Milk (a task app) to organize everything.
And she shows you how to do it. Since I’ve put her system into place I haven’t lost things. I haven’t forgotten appointments. I’ve gotten so much more done. And it’s streamlined my life and made me excited about getting organized for the first time.
Do More Better by Tim Challies
Tim’s book is a lot like Mystie’s. He explains how you need just three programs to organize everything, and he shows you how to do that.
But what he adds to the mix is the idea of dividing your life up into your different service roles–the different areas of responsibility that God has given you. Here are my categories: Family, Personal, Work, Body of Christ, and Home. It helps keep me focused and prevents me from getting lopsided (by forgetting things like going to get my bloodwork done, for instance, because I focus too much on others).
So I took Mystie’s system I was already doing and refined it using Tim’s categories.
In retrospect I wish I had read Tim’s book first. Tim’s is like the “big picture” God-calling idea, with some practical stuff. Then Mystie adds a ton more practical fluorish to how to put all the apps together.
They’re both cheap. And they’re both worth it!
Trust Without Borders by Arabah Joy
What if blessings are for everyone else, and for us–God’s just chosen to use us to go through suffering? That somehow He is hurting us deliberately?
Or, to put in another way, do you ever fear that you’re someone who has to be slaughtered so someone else can be blessed?
I read this book when it was part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, too, and I thought it was excellent. It was like God ripped off a little layer of my heart and revealed some of the fears that were still there–that God was waiting to punish me; that God didn’t care about my feelings, but only about what I accomplished; that God only blessed other people.
Arabah Joy wrote such a sweet and insightful book that will likely bring you to tears in several places as you go to a deeper level of trust.
A beautiful journey to take with God at the beginning of this year.
Finally, the book that has had the most profound effect on me this year is this one. As I shared yesterday, I was quite vulnerable when I wrote it, which was scary. I shared some of the struggles that I have and what God is showing me.
This is so much a labour of love. I feel, in some ways, like Arabah Joy asked in her book: I had to be slaughtered to write this. It was hard, because I said some very controversial things.
I knew I’d be criticized.
I said that God wants us to live by the Spirit, to achieve real unity, to love and honor each other. He doesn’t want us just to go along with what our husbands say mindlessly. He doesn’t want us covering up for sin. He doesn’t want us being peacekeepers, never rocking the boat. He calls women to be part of bringing about His kingdom here on earth–as we pray “YOUR will be done”–not our husband’s, and not ours. God’s.
I worry so much by some trends in modern Christian thinking that say that a husband’s will is all that matters. Quite frankly, that’s not biblical. And so many marriages are suffering for it because women don’t realize their worth.
This is a hard book to explain. It’s easier to talk about The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex–everyone knows they need that before they get married! But I’m increasingly convinced that we need this one, too. We need a new calling to let God form our own hearts, and let go of some of the pat Christian advice we’ve been given over the years and really learn to live by the Spirit.
If you haven’t read it yet, my heart is in this book, like it has been in no other. And I believe it will bless you.
Here’s something neat about books as Christmas presents: Did you know that it’s not too late to gift a KINDLE version of a book to a family member or friend? You can just find the book you want on Amazon and then click “Give as a Gift”. The recipient will get an email on a date that you choose with instructions on downloading it. So if you see a book that would work for a family member, you can still get it!
Now let me know: What books have changed YOU this year?