For many years, December showed up and I realized I had read very few books that year. This year, I thought I’d try to read more. I set a personal goal to read 50 books by December 31.
It was a crazy goal because I had “no time.” With a busy family, a full-time (plus) job, a demanding blogging and writing schedule, and lots of home projects on my plate, I held the goal loosely—but pursued it eagerly.
Amazingly, this week I completed the goal. (If you’re interested, I’ve listed the 50 books at the end of this post.)
But more importantly, I want to show you how I tackled the goal in order to encourage you that you can read more than you think you can.
You really can.
I would also love for you to tell me how you read books and what books you enjoyed this year.
In a world of get-rich-quick schemes and scams, it’s refreshing to read some common sense about money.
Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover walked me, a skeptic, step by step, from reluctant reader to Dave Ramsay fan. It’s easy to see how so many people have come to sing Dave’s praises. His method for financial freedom is simple, but it isn’t easy. Each chapter contains testimonies from those who have used the system and benefitted from it.
The “makeover” includes these steps, which I’ve paraphrased:
When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less.
For about a year I have provided autographed copies of my books for sale. I did it initially as a favor for readers who wanted them. But it’s become a lot of work, so I need to turn off the option.
This weekend will be your last chance to order a set of autographed books. If you already have a set, maybe you can order one for a friend or as a Christmas present.
You can also order each book individually, but the set comes at a pretty nice discount. You’ll pay more at Amazon and even more at retail stores . . . and they don’t autograph them for you!
After Sunday night, the opportunity ends.
For more info, just click here.
When Jesus traveled the hills of Galilee in the early days of His ministry, He had one primary message: “Repent, for the King of Heaven is at hand.” The Sermon on the Mount provided His unequivocal standard for entering the kingdom He offered: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). He then showed Himself as the only means of entry (7:13-14).
Tucked away in that sermon is a model prayer of humility and dependence that comes in the context of trusting God to meet true needs. The prayer stands as a complete opposite of the showy prayers of the scribes and Pharisees.
Mary DeMuth takes the prayer a step further by writing on the topic of each phrase of Jesus’ prayer and applying the principles of these topics to relationships—particularly to ones that have hurt us.
The Wall Around Your Heart speaks to the separation we’ve all encountered and the walls we have erected around our hearts to protect us from the pain of people. Although the Lord’s Prayer didn’t have relational pain as its primary purpose, the prayer covers areas of need in our lives that certainly apply to relationships. In fact, the part of the prayer that asks our Father for forgiveness is one that Jesus elaborates on immediately after the prayer (5:14-15). The Lord’s Prayer usually causes us to zero in on the forgiveness element of dealing with others, but there is more to the Lord’s Prayer than forgiveness—though that’s a great takeaway.
Each phrase is coupled with a relational principle to apply. Can you guess which part of the Lord’s Prayer goes with what principle?
- Pray first
- Live in Your Father’s Affection
- Allow God to be God
- Walk in the Great Right Now
- Respond Like Jesus
- Let Heaven Frame Your Relationships
- Ask Jesus for Help
- Be Repentant
- Defy Bitterness
- Dare to Engage Anyway
- Be Fully Alive
DeMuth points us to understand and embrace God’s love for us so that we can reach out and love others. We can’t love from an empty place. We give others what God has given us.
My favorite quote from the book:
Everything that hurts us on earth has the potential, when we let God put His hands in the conflict, to bless the world. In short, we hurt, and God heals, which makes us an agent of healing. (p. 116)
Mary is a gifted writer. Her new book describes how God heals the pain in our relationships through the very community that caused it.
When I first picked up this book, I assumed it would be a lighthearted look at rejection. (Though, I’m not sure how.) It wasn’t.
Instead, Downside Up connected with the ugly reality we face in relationships. In some way, rejection has cut us all—leaving scars of all sizes—and some of us still bleed every day in our work, marriages, friends, churches, and even written correspondence.
Sometimes others’ rejection of us is intentional, but occasionally, it also represents our own inflated sensitivity. Regardless, the rejection we feel is real. By the way, I guess I could feel rejected as a man that the book seems to address women primarily (as does the promo video above), but there’s a lot here for men too.
Tracey Mitchell’s book does more than examine rejection from these various avenues of entry. Each chapter concludes with elements that I found the most helpful parts of the book:
- Chapter Principles—if you read nothing but these, you’d get a good, general sense of the chapter’s contents as well as some great takeaways for application and renewing the mind against the raw feelings that rejection often brings. Super, super stuff here. These little nuggets are the best part of the book.
- Words of Wisdom—offers a simple Bible verse that relates to the chapter’s theme. Good for memorization and even better for meditation.
- Power Quote—a quote from various individuals that says in a few words something worth thinking about.
- Plan of Action—offers a direct application to do what the book’s title says we should do with rejection: turn it upside-down.
My opinion was turned upside down after I read Downside Up.
If rejection is something that’s eating you, you’ll find encouragement here.
By the way, I received this book from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. The review is my honest opinion. The FTC requires I tell you. See 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
This colorful book has more than great photographs. It carries with it inspiration for its reader.
Following the stories of how 21 very different people chose to step out beyond mediocrity and make their mark, Make Your Mark reveals that normal people can be used by God to make a difference. From well-known individuals like Mark Burnett and Roma Downey and Lecrae to lesser-knowns like Katie Davis and Gary Haugen, the believable takeaway from this softcover inspiration is that no matter who you are, you can make a difference.
The foreword by Jeremy Cowart says it well:
“This isn’t a book to celebrate the best in others as much as it is a book meant to call out the best in you. . . . It doesn’t matter who you are, how big your audience or your bank account, you can make a mark.”
Cowart is a photographer who captured each person’s portrait with him or her holding a frame of the “mark” they have made—and are making.
Stories of extreme sacrifice and love surface page after page. In between each mini-biography is woven the entire text from the Book of Mark—a nice touch. Especially since the key verse for the gospel mirrors the lives of those featured in What’s Your Mark?
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
The book urges readers to visit www.shareyourmark.com and leave how they are leaving their mark.
For me, the book’s purpose seems to have helped me take the first step. After reading the little volume, I prayed: “God, how would you have me make a mark for your glory in my life?”
You can read the book in one sitting, but I doubt you’ll be the same if you do.
Having enjoyed Eric Metaxas’ book on Bonhoeffer, I was eager to review his latest volume, 7 Men.
The book covers seven famous men in history whose faith made a difference in the way they lived.
Metaxas expressed it this way: “I was looking for seven men who had all evinced one particular quality: that of surrendering themselves to a higher purpose, of giving something away that they might have kept.”
- George Washington
- William Wilberforce
- Eric Liddell
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- Jackie Robinson
- Pope John Paul II
- Charles Colson
Each chapter of 7 Men includes a brief introduction why Metaxas chose the man, the story of what made the man great, and—by indirect suggestion—how we can live by their example.
Len Bailey’s book, Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye, portrays Holmes and Watson traveling to biblical days to solve biblical “mysteries.”
The time travel is a fascinating aspect to the book, but the mysteries are “solved” simply by Holmes’ keen observation of Scripture. It’s the same premise I learned in Howard Hendricks’ class on Bible Study Methods. In that class, we even read a portion of Conan Doyle’s books where Holmes employs his powers of observation.
Once in this book, Watson asked how Holmes, a critic, could have such faith in the Bible. Holmes replied:
Faith has nothing to do with it, old boy. I’m just a better reader than you are.
The book is creative and entertaining, though sometimes it stretches the bounds of tolerance when Holmes offers Watson long paragraphs of historical background, sounding more like a Bible Dictionary than a detective.
Although each mystery rests on the keen observation of often-obscure passages, most of the conclusions offered are still debatable—answers that have been provided by scholars for centuries.
For example . . .
All godly fathers want to pass on a love for godly truths to their children.
I Call Shotgun is a collection of 64 “letters” from authors and fathers Tommy Newberry and Curt Beavers to their sons.
There are plenty of imitation sources of wisdom that are ready to offer ungodly alternatives to our children. By design, fathers are essential to impart godliness in their words and their actions.
This book purposes to impart wisdom through words.
“You only get one shot at life, son.” That’s a great summary of the book’s goal: to equip a son for life.
The introduction is necessary reading in order to make sense of the book. For example, without the introduction the text messages suggestions appear as pull quotes and don’t always relate to the content surrounding it.
Although the book is written from fathers to sons, the authors address other fathers in the introduction this way:
We are confident that you want to equip your son with the understanding and wisdom to succeed in the world today. We wrote this book with you [fathers] in mind.
Some Great Navigation
The letters serve as a catalyst for fathers to write their own letters to their sons, in order to help pass on a godly heritage.
The book’s title, I Call Shotgun, probably refers to the common phrase that requests someone who’ll ride beside the driver—perhaps as a navigator. The subtitle reflects this implication: Lessons from Dad for Navigating the Roads of Life.
Here are a few parts of the book I liked that offer helpful navigation for life: