“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
It can also be dangerous! Just ask John the Baptist or Martin Luther King. The quote is by George Orwell, author of Animal Farm. I saw the words on a poster in an English class of 7th graders. His 1945 book was a parable about communism—how it carried seeds of self-destruction. Orwell’s novel is a parable of how privileged political parties, once they gain power, are divisive and self-serving. Since no government and no leader is perfect (in politics, church, work, or the home), I pray for Mr. Trump—just like I prayed for Mr. Obama. I could say more about America’s dilemma, but let’s move on to review some books I’ve been reading.
In my personal quiet times (so important in this noisy world), I’ve begun the year using three books: Declaring God’s Word by Derek Prince, The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn, and The Holy Bible (ESV) by Messiah Jesus. I use the New American Standard Bible for study or ministry but I’ll often read personally in the ESV or NIV. As a study tool, I like Olive Tree Bible Software. It’s extremely useful and inexpensive. My wife, Lana, has come to love the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. My “best practice” for prayers of petition are done by agreeing in prayer with my wife. We get answers when we unite! My best solitary form of prayer is time praising, worshipping, waiting, and listening. I mix praying in the Spirit (using unknown tongues) with praying with my understanding (using my mind). I sometimes like singing scripture verses. To me, all of this is my way of loving God with all of my heart, mind, soul, and body.
I read prodigiously when I’m not involved with family or working on a writing project. Sometimes I feel impressed, “Pick up that book!” The Lord shows me something—a jewel just waiting for me to discover! My 2017 reading adventures (for fun and work) have already hit pay dirt. Here goes…
James Patterson is an enormously successful author. Maxine Paetro joined him in crafting Woman of God. The title intrigued me because I’ve been refining my views about the roles of women. The huge Women’s March on Jan 21st in Washington, DC, shows that this remains a huge social issue, one not to be ignored. My new non-fiction book, Women on the Team, will be released soon from Amazon.com. My goal is to gut the artifical restrictions we add to God’s word.) Patterson’s novel is excellent. It blends dramatic action with contemporary women’s issues and religious terrorism. As usual, Patterson makes you care about his characters and gets you caught up in the conflict. He has perfected a style that moves you along in a fast-paced experience. I appreciated how the authors handled God’s presence as well as our perception of hearing God’s voice. I was pleasantly surprised, finding it familiar, realistic, and respectful.
I recently discovered a new author, David Gregory. His fiction novel, The Last Christian, occurs in a future America a few decades distant. The setting was familiar, the DFW Metroplex in Texas. The heroine returned home from serving an isolated tribe. Her parents had died there as missionaries. She found America to no longer be a Christian nation in any sense of the word. The author showed the clash of conflicting worldviews and emerging techno-humanity with traditional historic biblical faith. We watch her striving to communicate the gospel to a culture whose way of thinking no longer had a basis to comprehend it. The way she resolved this problem has theological and practical applications to the modern church. The dilemma she addressed impacts our worldview, whether secular or biblical. This book was a fascinating read for me on many levels.
Just for recreation or light reading, I picked up a Dean Koontz novel, By the Light of the Moon. Mr. Koontz, with whom I have corresponded, has a Christian worldview, yet he writes in the genre of “frighten-you-awake.” His ingenious plots put ordinary people possessing good hearts into scary paranormal or potentially violent situations. Good always battles evil— but only the pure of heart can win, but only if they resist evil and bravely fight (just like believers in Jesus who are prayer warriors or intercessors). No author comes close to Koontz’ use of descriptive words to set scenes or make his well-imagined characters come alive. He is an artist and a magician with language. Koontz utilizes ideas about mysterious forces that fit with quantum physics as he pulls aside the veil on unseen evil.
I recently finished reading Finding God in the Waves, an honest book by Mike McHargue. He is known as “Science Mike” on his podcasts. The subtitle of his book is, “How I lost my faith and found it again through science.” His personal faith-struggle was gut-wrenching and enthralling. A former Baptist fundamentalist, he lost his faith, became a closet atheist and hypocrite; nearly lost his marriage; then went public with his internal battle. Some people who loved him prayed for him. Some church people crucified him. Then he had a supernatural encounter with God. I liked that part a lot! I’ve been there; done that. I grew up learning to read in the Bible. I revere it. But I worship God, not the Bible. That’s a very important distinction. Some fundamentalists make an idol out of the Bible. For example, “KJV only or burn in hell!” Science Mike is now a believer again, albeit progressive. He is not afraid to acknowledge his uncertainties and doubts. As such, he’s a witness to the skeptics of today. This book was very helpful to me but the topic may be difficult if you are not grounded in your faith in Christ.
As a prophetic writer and commentator, I need to understand the pervasive post-Christian culture surrounding (and resisting) the church. We do not speak the same language. My city, Fayetteville, AR, is prosperous, liberal, educated, progressive, modernist, secular, skeptical, pro-gay, democratic, and somewhat anti-Christian (but not anti-God). Tolerance is a higher virtue than biblical convictions. Yet the Christian community is thriving in selected segments of society. Mike’s book is full of valuable insights for me as a communicator for God.
Finally, I’m reading (while excitedly underlining key words) one of N.T. Wright’s older books, Simply Christian. I enjoy reading N.T. Wright because he makes me think. Wright, an Anglican, has been called the greatest living Christian apologist (or explainer) of the faith. I agree. I also like Leonard Sweet, who is brilliant. Derek Prince was a favorite. C.S. Lewis set the bar very high. But Wright makes his topics more reader-friendly and applies his thoughtful ideas and applications of biblical truth in a relevant way.
To have a great year, I suggest reading more of the Bible. Use a modern version. Read it like it’s the first time; a personal letter. Discard traditional lenses that don’t fit the narrative of the present reality of Christ’s kingdom or the imminent return of our Great King. The Bible’s author, Jesus, said, “Love God! Love your neighbor!” That’s a condensation of the “new and living way” in his kingdom. It’s really that simple. To have more benefits overtake you and fall upon you as a bonus, practice these things: “Keep the covenant. Honor God. Raise the kids.” It becomes difficult to dodge the abundant blessings of Christ!
That’s it—my smorgasbord of good reads. If you want more, subscribe to my free newsletter. You’ll receive study notes, spiritual insights, newspaper articles, requests for opinions, and be the first to see excerpts of new books. Next month my Bible study, “The Second Touch of Jesus,” should be ready to give away to my readers. By the way, this email list belongs to me. I don’t share it or sell it. You may unsubscribe anytime with a click. With over a thousand names, we must organize.
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