FYI: Posts will be sparse around here until I replace my laptop.... Coming back to work after Christmas break apparently was too hard and it quit on me!

31 December 2015

Favorite Reads of 2015

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes, although I don't get to read as much as I used to. Most of this year's reads are from classes or happened to be lying around the house when I was on break. Without further ado, my six favorite reads of 2015, in the order I read them:

This is My God by Herman Wouk
I read this book as part of my Religions of the World class this past spring.Written by a Jewish man, it is an interesting perspective on the Jewish culture. I appreciated it because it gave insight on how holy our God is, something I think often forgotten in our modern day western Christian culture. Read it to have a better understanding of orthodox Jewish culture and traditions in the modern world.
God cannot be much of an Almighty, it has long since been observed, if anything we say in prayer is new to him, or useful, or capable of having an effect. If God exists, he is omniscient. .... a man wants to praise God for the marvels of life, and to ask to be spared its terrors if possible, and to give thanks for what he has in hand, in health, family, and work. He wants to, that is, if a sense will not leave him that God is there. In Judaism praying for benefits is a very small part of the liturgy. Most of its commitment of one's fortunes to God, and meditation on sacred writings which put in clear words the few great points of our religion. Its daily aim is a renewal of religious energy through an act which declares one's Jewish identity and one's hope in the Lord.

Perhaps for saints and for truly holy men fully conscious prayer is really an everyday thing. They live, in that case, in clarity that plain people do not know. For the ordinary worshipper, the rewards of a lifetime of faithful praying come at unpredictable times, scattered through the years, when all at once the liturgy glows as with fire. Such an hour may come after a death, or after a birth; it may strike after a miraculous deliverance, or on the brink of evident doom; it may flood the soul at no marked time, for no marked reason. It comes, and he knows why he has prayed all his life.

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
A quick spring-break read and C. S. Lewis is always a favorite. More than just an entertaining read(which it is, being full of wit and humor!), it gives insight to the inner workings of the human heart and the common temptations given to humankind. If you read it, be prepared to laugh and yet also be convicted of the temptations found in your own heart.
My dear Wormwood, I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian. Do not indulge the hope that you will escape the usual penalties; indeed, in your better moments, I trust you would hardly even wish to do so. In the meantime we must make the best of the situation. There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the Enemy's camp and are now with us. All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favour. 

Work hard then, on the disappointment or anti-climax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavour. ... In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing. The Enemy takes this risk because because He has these disgusting little human vermin into what He calls His "free" lovers and servant--"sons" is the word He uses, with His inveterate love of degrading the whole spiritual world by unnatural liaisons with the two-legged animals. Desiring their freedom, He therefore refuses to carry them, by their mere affections and habits, to any of the goals which He sets before them: He leaves them to "do it on their own." And there lies our opportunity. But also, remember, there lies our danger. If once they get through this initial dryness successfully, they become much less dependent on emotion and therefore much harder to tempt.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi
My sister recommended this one and let me read her copy she brought home for the summer. It was a great read especially after just finishing a course on world religions. A captivating and honest read about the internal struggles of a devout American Muslim who tried to share his beliefs with a Christian friend and how he found Jesus to be the Christ. Very respectful and insightful to both Muslim and Christian beliefs and traditions--Highly recommended!
“But how is it conceivable that Allah, the highest being of all, would enter into this world? This world is filthy and sinful, no place for the One who deserves all glory and all praise. And how could I even begin to suggest that God, the magnificent and splendid Creator, would enter into this world through the birth canal of a girl? Audhu billah, that’s disgusting! To have to eat, to grow fatigued, and to sweat and spill blood, and to be finally nailed to a cross. I cannot believe this. God deserves infinitely more. His majesty is far greater than this. “But what if His majesty is not as important to Him as His children are?”

“Glorified is my Lord . . . Who is my Lord? Who are You, Lord? Are You Allah, the God of my father and forefathers? Are You the God I have always worshiped? The God my family has always worshiped? Surely You are the one who sent Muhammad 1 as the final messenger for mankind and the Quran as our guide? You are Allah, the God of Islam, aren’t You? Or are You . . .” I hesitated, fighting the blasphemy I was about to propose. But what if the blasphemy was the truth? “Or are You Jesus?”

(I have a cute photobomber...notice the cheese-it!)

Teaching to Change Lives: Seven Proven Ways to Make Your Teaching Come Alive by Dr. Howard Hendricks
This was part of a class I took this past fall on the Ministry of Teaching and was very insightful both as a student and a teacher. Down to earth and practical, Hendricks presents seven laws forming the acrostic:
T - The Law of the Teacher: Stop growing today, and you stop teaching tomorrow.
E - The Law of Education: How people learn determines how you teach.
A - The Law of Activity: Maximum learning is always the result of maximum involvement.
C - The Law of Communication: To truly impart information requires the building of bridges.
E - The Law of Encouragement: Teaching tends to be most effective when the learner is properly motivated.
R - The Law of Readiness: The teaching-learning process will be most effective when both student and teacher are adequately prepared.

These "laws" are principles--basic principles woven forever into the fabric of effective teaching. Whatever age group you teach, or whatever subject, or whatever cultural setting you're involved in, your understanding and application of these laws can help you make a permanent difference in the lives of others. But keep in mind that these really are only principles. When it comes to carrying out his purposes, God doesn't use principles; he uses people.
Your success in your calling as an effective teacher depends not on your knowledge of these laws, but on you as a person, and most strategically on your openness to God's power in your life. The key is not what you do for God but what you allow him to do through you. God wants to use you as his catalyst--and as you let him transform and renew your thinking, you'll be ready for his use. Are you, therefore, willing to permit God to change you so you can truly impact others? That willingness--that commitment--could well be the biggest step forward in your success in teaching.

The Wise Woman and Other Stories by George MacDonald
I picked this one up before the rush of Christmas break began. I remember picking up a book by MacDonald when I was younger after reading C. S. Lewis' Narnia, but didn't appreciate his writings then (perhaps I didn't catch on to the allegory?), but I do now! The reader is privileged with insight that the main characters don't have (except for the Wise Woman herself), and therefore have the privilege to see the characters' true character traits and flaws. Read it with the anticipation for grand imagery and great character insight.
And, what is still more surprising, the shepherd and shepherdess and the dairymaids and the laborers were not a bit wiser than the king and the queen and the dukes and the marquises and the earls; for they too, one and all, so constantly taught the little woman that she was Somebody, that she also forgot that there were a great many more Somebodies besides herself in the world.  

Still, the change was mostly an outside one. I do not mean that she was pretending. Indeed she had never been given to pretense of any sort. But the change was not in her, but only in her mood. A second change of circumstances would have soon brought a second change of behavior; and, so long as that was possible, she continued the same sort of person she had always been. But if she had not gained much, a trifle had been gained for her: a little quietness and order of mind, and hence a somewhat greater possibility of the first idea of right arising in it, whereupon she would begin to see what  a wretched creature she was, and must continue until she herself was right.

The Discipline of Grace: God's Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
(This one is kind of cheating because I haven't finished it yet, but it is my overall favorite read of the year so I'm putting it in anyways.) Jerry Bridges is a favorite author of mine, and this book doesn't disappoint. I was given this book as a gift at the beginning of the fall semester and I've read it slowly over the semester. It isn't a book you can fly through, if you want it to have full impact on your life--chew slowly. I don't remember reading a book that has met me where I am as much as this one. As always, Bridges writes with truth, simplicity, and honesty. All of his points are based on truth in Scripture, illustrated by his own life experiences, and backed up with references to the works of church writers such as John Owen. If you choose to pick up any of the books I reference in this post, make sure to include this one!
Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace. 

To preach the gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. .... This is a book about God's grace and the pursuit of holiness. You can be sure of one thing, though: When you set yourself to seriously pursue holiness, you will begin to realize what an awful sinner you are. And if you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness.

If you're interested in keeping up with what I'm reading this next year, find me on goodreads:

EmilyGrace's currently-reading book montage

Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate
The Discipline of Grace: God's Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness
The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C. S. Lewis
Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters
Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels
The Shadow of the Galilean: The Quest of the Historical Jesus in Narrative Form
Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament
Dwelling with Philippians: A Conversation with Scripture through Image and Word

EmilyGrace's favorite books »


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