As many of you know, I enjoy reading . . . a lot. C.S. Lewis said: ““You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” That quote resonates with me. I often write spiritual thoughts in my blog, but I am trying to expand my selection of reading to not get caught in one particular genre, and the books I listed below are some of my favorites that I read in 2018. I would recommend these to those who want to read something they have never read before.
The Prisoner in the Third Cell (Gene Edwards) – this is a quick read with a very powerful message. It is entertaining and while it is not poetry, it has a very artistic flow to it. I found it tremendously encouraging.
With (Skye Jethani) – this book explores what it means to simply be “with” God. The author explores what it looks like, how we do it and the implications of making it a practice to be more present with God in our day-to-day lives.
Making Sense of God (Tim Keller) – for those that like a deeper, more intellectually challenging book, this one is fantastic. Based on his decades of dealing with skeptics in NYC, this book examines the current arguments against God and faith, and walks through them in light of what makes the most sense. It is tremendously encouraging to realize the extent of the logic of our faith, and it will equip you to think through your faith more systematically. If you are searching, it challenges you to simply consider what you may have never consisted before.
The Year of Less (Cait Flanders) – I enjoyed this book of a woman who decided that her life was too cluttered and so lived for an entire year without buying stuff. She blogged about her experience and then turned it into a book. Really easy and thought provoking read.
A Celt in Rome (William Crockett) – this is historical fiction, which I enjoy. The book traces the adventures of a woman who grew up in Britain during the height of the Roman empire and gets dragged into the politics and actions of the empire. It has action and romance and is a fun read.
Adventure / Fantasy
Past Tense (Lee Child) – I admit it, I am a big fan of the Jack Reacher character. This is Child’s latest installment in this series and is simply mind candy as you get to participate in Reacher’s victory over the latest installment of bad guys.
The Chemist (Stephanie Meyer) – I liked this one because it grabbed me from page 1. Interesting premise because the main character is someone who makes her living extracting information from people in not the best ways. This book moves along quickly and has all the elements of a good adventure.
World War Z (Max Brooks) – I kind of got on a kick for a while of reading books that have been made into movies. Sometimes the movie parallels the book, but most often it does not. This falls into that category. It is written in a fascinating style and is far more realistic in how society would react when faced with a world wide crisis.
Do you get discouraged? What makes you discouraged? What do you do when you are discouraged? The answers for most of us to these questions are connected. If I get discouraged when I fail at something, my solution might be to try harder. For some it might mean giving up. If I get discouraged when life is out of control, I might respond by trying to organize things and bring things back into some type of order. If I am discouraged because I am overwhelmed, I might retreat into coping behaviors. If I am discouraged by negative opinions of others, I might lash out in anger or seek out people who will encourage me.
The responses we have would be wide and varied. I wonder if there are any principles that could help us the next time we face some level of discouragement. I did some looking recently at what the Scriptures say about discouragement. Check it out below:
See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 1:21)
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. (Joshua 8:1)
David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. (1 Chronicles 28:20)
He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. (2 Chronicles 20:15)
2 Chronicles 20:17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’ ”
There are more but you get the idea. Whenever I do this, I look to see if there is a theme or common thread that runs through statements like this. In this particular case, I see two.
1. The instruction to not be discouraged is almost always tied to God’s presence. People are told to not be discouraged because God is “with” them. His presence makes a difference. What does that look like? How does God’s presence help with discouragement? I wonder if it is because discouragement is so closely tied to unmet expectations. Things are not turning out the way I thought. My goals are not being met. People are not thinking of me what I wanted them to. Discouragement comes when my focus is on those unmet expectations. If I do that, I can either work harder to overcome, shut down and give up altogether, or somewhere in between.
When I realize that God is with me and that he is not absent it changes things. When I shift my focus to what he is like and that his opinion of me is not determined by whether or not my expectations are accomplished,
2. The instruction to not be discouraged is tied to God’s power. We hear over and over that the reason a person does not need to be discouraged is because God has it under control. His power is at work. It is his task. It is almost like God continues to tell people that they need to remember that they DON’T have things under control but God does. Much of our discouragement seems to come when we take responsibility for things. We own the results of everything we are trying to do, even when we simply don’t have any control over it. No matter what I do, I am never the only one who dictates whether something is successful or not. I can never force people to see me a certain way. Instead, God invites people to simply be faithful, do what he tells them to do, and then let God do his thing.
I wonder if we did this more frequently if our bouts of discouragement might be shortened and lessened? Now, when I get discouraged, I reminder myself. God is with me AND God has got this. Take a deep breath and relax. I wish it were always easy, but it’s not. But I choose to believe what God has said. May you do the same.
This is my first week back after being gone from my job at Hope Chapel for 10 weeks on a Sabbatical. During that time, I was able to:
This whole Sabbatical idea was new for me. I am a “doer” and I don’t slow down easily. As I went into the Sabbatical I had many questions. Would I get bored? What would I feel? What would I learn? I had plans for different things but no idea on how they would all play out. How would God speak? Would he even speak? Then there were the more insidious thoughts and questions. How will I make sure I don’t waste this time? What will people think of me taking this Sabbatical? What can I do to prove that I did all that I was supposed to do? Whew . . . I think there is a reason most Sabbaticals are supposed to last at least 2 months. It takes a while simply to process a lot of this stuff.
While there is way too much to address in one blog, let me share with you some of things that God impressed on me while I was away.
There is more, and I am sure that I will be unpacking a lot of what I learned in the months ahead. For now though, I am supremely grateful for this time. I appreciate my church that allowed me this privilege and I am most all thankful that God continues to pursue me from his love for me.
Weldon Lemke has been leading Hope Chapel since 2009 with a passion to see people come to know God and grow to maturity in Him.