Christmas is a time to reflect upon the person of Jesus, and the joy of having the Son of God come to earth in human form to save broken humanity. This time of reflection upon Jesus always leads me to reflect upon the previous year: what I've learned, what I'm learning, and what books I've read.
Every year, I challenge myself to read a certain number of books, like Tim Challie's Christian Reading Challenge. The goal for 2016 was to read 24 books (two per month). With the number of life changes this past year, I didn't quite reach that goal, but I did read a number of excellent and recommendable books.
If you're looking for great books to read over this next year, you might consider buying or borrowing one of these books.
Love Walked Among Us by Paul Miller
If you want to be in awe of the love of Jesus and grow in loving Jesus and loving others in response, this is a great book for you! Paul Miller's writing is very practical and helpful in learning how to love like Jesus.
You can read my more in depth review from earlier this year: Love Walked Among Us
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
I recently shared a review of this book (There Are None Like Him), but if I could give this book away to all of my friends, I would! The strength of this book is that it takes things that we learn about God's character from Scripture and offers up how that characteristic is diferent from us. I was left in awe of God after reading this book.
Prayer by Tim Keller
I haven't read a lot of books on prayer, other then A Praying Life, this is one book I would recommend for those that want to deepen their prayer life and their relationship with God. Keller goes into the theology of prayer, takes a look at what theologians have used to aid their prayer life, and different ways of praying. While A Praying Life gave me a desire to pray more, this book gave great practicals in different ways to pray and why we should pray.
Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman
I've followed Emily P. Freeman's blog for years, but never read one of her books until this past summer. This book encouraged me in a season of life when small-moment living didn't feel like it was Kingdom building. In a season when serving Jesus looked like making a PBJ for my husband, it was encouraging to be reminded that God's Kingdom is not about flashly and extravagant things and moments, but about small-moments lived for God's glory.
Habits of Grace by David Mathis
I just finished this book, but I would recommend it to anyone looking to grow in grace and in their relationship with Jesus. We are saved by God's grace, and we grow more like Jesus by God's grace, but there are things that we can do to put us on the path to God's grace. Mathis writes that the three primary ways are through "having God's ear, hearing God's voice, and belonging to His body." Basically, we can put ourselves on the path of grace by spending time in God's Word, praying, and being a part of the local church and fellowship of believers.
If you struggle with any of the spiritual disciplines (i.e. spending time reading Scripture, prayer, or fellowship), this is an encouraging and grace-focused read.
If you're looking for a recommended read for 2017, look no further!
What are the best books you've read in 2016?
The Amazon link to the book mentioned above is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase this book, this blog is supported at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting She Laughs Without Fear!
I'm learning that the greatest thing I can do with my time is love God and find ways to love my neighbor. The heart of what I write and share is to love others. I pray that these curated finds bless you on the journey.
For those of us that are thinking through resolutions for the New Year: One Big Tip to Make Your Resolutions Stick.
For those of us that are looking to grow over this next year: Here I Raise my Ebenezer: How This Discipline Buoyed My 2016.
For those of us wanting to grow in self-control and avoid distraction: Lord, Deliver Me From Distraction
For those of us that struggle with giving up our preferences to count others as more significant: Lay Aside the Weight of Selfishness
For those of us that want to grow in God's grace and enjoy Jesus more (one of the best books I read this year): Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.
For those of us that want to know how to love God more: FLASHBACK: Loving God
Note: The Amazon link to the book mentioned above is an affiliate link. If you click on the link and purchase this book, this blog is supported at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting She Laughs Without Fear!
These days, I wake up and the first thing I think about is the list of things that I need to accomplish for the day. A number of questions rush through my head. Are the clothes clean? Do I need to run to the grocery store? What do I need to do before going to campus for the day? My head is filled with a list of things to do before I've even gotten out of bed.
My mind mulls over these things in the shower, and as I make Brandon and I breakfast, tasks are added to my phone. By the time I sit down to spend time reading Scripture and in prayer, a question arises in my heart: should I just spend time in God's Word later in the day and begin to tackle the day's tasks?
Sound familiar? My guess is that I'm not the only person that struggles with this question and another way of wording it is this: how can I make time to know and love God when I'm too busy and anxious about many things?
As I've wrestled through this morning after morning, I'm reminded of another woman that shared the same struggle. Her name was Martha, and you might know of her...
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
I remember the first time I heard a sermon on this story of Scripture. My heart whispered, "You're such a Martha!" And I am. I'm just like Martha. I am often anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is necessary and that's spending time at Jesus' feet. Jesus himself says that it is the good portion and one necessary thing.
When I think about necessary things in life, I often think back to what my college Psychology textbook said were the necessary elements for life: food, shelter, clothes, and security. Jesus says something completely different. He says that there is one necessary thing and that Mary chose the good thing. We can interpret from the text that the good thing Mary chose was sitting at the Lord's feet and listening to his teaching.
Martha, on the other hand, was distracted with much serving. Serving isn't a bad thing, but Martha was anxious and troubled by many things, and she clearly wanted Mary to help her and felt as if Mary should help her. But Jesus does an amazing thing. He does not respond to Martha in the way that I would, "Yeah Martha! You're doing so much work and Mary's just sitting. She should help you!"
However, Jesus responds that Mary has actually chosen the good portion - the best thing - the one thing that is necessary - time at her Lord's feet to listen to his teaching.
I needed to read this Scripture the morning that I did. I was anxious and nervous about many things on my to-do list. As I questioned whether time with Jesus in the morning was worth it, Jesus himself reminded me from the Word that time with him is the one necessary thing and it's the best thing I could do with my morning.
How about for you, my friends? Do you find yourself struggling to spend time at the feet of Jesus? Are you putting off time in the Scriptures for when you're less busy or when it's more convenient? If that's the case, let me encourage you as a fellow struggler that Jesus has the same words for us that he had for Martha. We are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is neccessary.
The best thing and the only necessary thing is spending time at the feet of our Lord and listening to his teaching. May we, like Mary, choose the better portion and know that it will not be taken away from us.
Shalom! I'm Madi, a laughter-loving, movie-going, spontaneous-dancing, follower of Christ. Join me as I seek glimpses of God's grace in the ordinary and everyday.
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