Often my reading is pure entertainment, transporting me back in time or puzzling out a mystery. Sometimes both--the best of both worlds for entertainment. However, I want to pass along a few titles that will challenge you in 2016. Books that sharpen the mind and soften the heart. There are three I read or re-read that were memorable in 2015. I wholeheartedly recommend adding them to your reading list.
The first is Dispatches from the Front by Tim Keesee. Tim is the founder and executive director of Frontline Missions International, which for 20 years has taken the gospel to the world's most difficult places. He has traveled to over 80 countries, especially those dangerous and remote areas of the world like Afghanistan, Iraq, northern Africa, and Bosnia.
God is at work. Really. The gospel is being preached and people are coming to Christ in war-torn, poverty-stricken, and perilous regions of the world. This book journals his travels to visit and support the churches in the uttermost parts of the globe. Muslims are turning to the saving message of Christ despite unimaginable hardships and life-threatening conditions. Much of this book is difficult to read because we in the Western world have such an easy life and take so much for granted. Truly an eye-opening read, and a book filled with the hope and proof of the power of the gospel.
Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts was on the NY Times bestseller list for 60 weeks, which should get your attention. Voskamp is the mother of six, a farmer's wife, and also a photographer. One Thousand Gifts is her struggle to find God in the ordinary, in the bleak times of life. Whether we're buried in laundry, working in the barn, changing diapers, or suffering loss of any kind, we can give thanks. Her writing style will challenge you and it may take time to get through the book. It seems more like poetry than prose, but there's nothing wrong with stimulating your brain, and savoring a book, even if it's different/difficult. Ann invites you to slow down to experience eucharisteo - thanksgiving to God in the mundane, and often painful parts of life. The thankful life is rich; superior to entertainment and stuff, revealing at least a thousand blessings right in front of us.
I am a longtime fan of Richard Foster whose most well-known work is probably Celebration of Discipline, which I read it for the first time back in the early 80s. A more recent book is Life with God (Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation). Readers are introduced to the Immanuel Principle. God is with us, will we be with Him? A much easier read than One Thousand Gifts, Life with God offers depth with simplicity. Rather than use the Bible as a knowledge tool to outdo one another or pull verses out of context for our own purposes, let's immerse ourselves in life with God. It's not about successful living or having it all now. As Foster states, "But the aim (of the Bible) is not external conformity, whether to doctrine or deed, but the re-formation of the inner self--the spiritual core, the place of thought and feeling, of will and character."
Grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ in 2016.