Top 20 Christian Books You Should Read!

While we could never replace the Bible with any other books, there are some Christian books which have enhanced my spiritual walk.

Here are my top 20 Christian books:

  1. The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
  2. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
  3. Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand
  4. The Purpose-Driven Life – by Rick Warren
  5. Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby
  6. Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
  7. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  8. The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
  9. What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey
  10. Celebration of Discipline – by Richard J. Foster
  11. Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis
  12. In the Name of Jesus – by Henri Nouwen
  13. Redeeming Love – by Francine Rivers
  14. Wild at Heart – by John Eldredge
  15. My Utmost for His Highest – by Oswald Chambers
  16. The Pursuit of God – by A.W. Tozer
  17. The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman
  18. Out of the Salt Shaker & into the World- by Rebecca Manley Pippert
  19. The Jesus I Never Knew – by Philip Yancey
  20. The Screwtape Letters – by C. S. Lewis
  • What Christian books have had an impact in your life?
  • What are you reading right now?
  • What is God saying?
  • What changes do you need to make in response to what you have been reading?
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10 LESSONS FROM MY 40 YEARS ON PLANET EARTH (PART 3)

10 LESSONS FROM MY 40 YEARS ON PLANET EARTH (PART 3)

  1. Learning never ceases. This is a literal translation of Shona statement “Kudzidza hakupere.” We should always be open to learning every day, even if you are in your twilight years. We can learn at school, at home, on the streets, from others, even from children.  We can learn anywhere, anytime, anyhow.  Education is important.  If you are in school, stay there.  If you are in college, keep at it.  If you are in leadership, keep learning.  To lead well, read much.  What books have you read lately?  What books are you reading right now?  What has God been teaching you this week?
  1. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Enjoy life. My wife often reminds me, “Life is too short. Have fun.”  Sometimes we spend too much time worrying about things that never happen, or are beyond our control.  Go ahead play a sport, go sky diving, bungee jumping, laugh – do something to lighten your life.
  1. Don’t give up or quit easily. We often face challenges that corner us and leave us, seemingly, with no option but to throw in the towel.  The devil often whispers to us to give up.  Life is never meant to be a walk in the park.  In fact, the challenges we face make us stronger.  Quitting robs us of the opportunity to grow.  Refuse to quit.  Often, we quit right before the moment of victory.  We need to ask for God’s grace to handle life’s pressures.  We need to be people who take a licking but are able to keep on ticking. The Bible says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”  – Deuteronomy 31:6

 

  1. Give to others. We imitate God the most when we give sacrificially. Giving money, gifts, and treasures is a sign of our love and gratitude.  I have learned that I feel great when I give, much better than when I am on the receiving end.  There is something divine and godly in the act of giving.  In Luke 6:38, we read, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Do you tithe to your church?  Do you give to the poor?

 

  1. I have learned that life is more meaningful when I serve than when I am served. In this age of movie superheroes, sports, political and church celebrities, we lack great examples of   We forget we are at our best when we serve others.  This world needs more servants than bosses; more service oriented leaders than dictators.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”  In Matthew 20:27-28, we read “And whoever wants to be first must be your servant–  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

 

  1. Do you know what your calling is? Are you in God’s will? If not, what is stopping you?

I have learned that you thrive and flourish when you are doing what God called you to do.  I like what God says in Jeremiah 29:11-13: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  I dare you to discover God’s will for your life.  I dare you to live in the midst of God’s will.  Buckle up, the ride is going to be full of hard times, and fulfilling times, as well.  An adventure with God is worth leaving all our personal plans for. Are you ready?

  1. I have learned that hard work does not kill. God hates laziness.  Laziness does not put food on the table; neither does it sustain a healthy lifestyle.   I have seen intelligent, book smart people struggle, while the hard working people succeed in life.  I read somewhere this saying, “Those who do their homework rule the world.”  There is an element of truth there.  The discipline of putting an honest day’s work brings forth wonderful returns.  Success in school takes the discipline of good study habits.  Spiritual growth partly, is dependent on overcoming the laziness that keeps us in bed instead of prayer.  Working hard means getting off the couch, and putting some sweat equity into your life.  Your sweat today will make your life sweet tomorrow.
  1. Face your fears. What is that you fear the most? What are your fears?  Most of us have done ourselves a huge disfavor by allowing fear to cripple us.  We have stopped living.  We have short changed ourselves when we have cowered to a corner rather than sing, speak up, or do anything we know deep inside, we need to do.  Fear works against faith.  Fear debilitates many good, gifted people.  We need to face our fears.  We will soon discover God equips and empowers us to handle our fears.  Joshua 1:9 says, “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.” Are you ready to hold the bull by its horns – face your fears, and start living!

 

  1. We need each other. We were created for community.  I have learned that it is better to be economically poor and be surrounded by loving family and friends, than to be financially wealthy while living a solitary, lonely life.  It is imperative that we learn to relate well with all people, especially our family.  I know we live in an individualistic, independent society.  Let us go counter-culture and learn to live and thrive in community. We have to be comfortable around people; learn to subject our independence to the community.  After all, no person is an island.  Do you have relationships that need to be rebuilt?  Are there family members you need to forgive to restore your strained relationships?  Stop being stubborn.  Extend grace.

10. Try something new and daring. New foods. New sports.  Go back to school and finish that degree. I am amazed how many times my life goes into a rut.  Often I get stuck in a routine that sucks life out of everything.  I have learned that it is important to keep exploring new worlds.  A couple of years ago, I made up my mind that I would try eating sushi.  The last time I had tried was 12 years earlier – and I hated it.  This time, I enjoyed sushi.  Now I call myself a “food fanatic.”  I am enjoying trying different foods.  This has exposed me to new cultures, new friends, and a sense of adventure.  Do you need to try eating something exotic?  Have you considered skydiving, or singing a solo, or teaching a Sunday School class?  What is it that you can do to inject life into your boring routine?

10 Lessons from my 40 Years on Planet Earth (Part 2)

  1. Don’t write and send letters or emails when angry. You may say words you will forever regret. You are not rational and wise when in anger. You need time to reflect on your thoughts.  Sleeping over it helps you cool down.  James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak (write/type) and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
  1. A good reputation is better than fame and money.  Proverbs 20:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” (NIV)  It is better to be poor and be a person of integrity and character, than to be a wealthy fool.

3. Refresh yourself. Don’t run on fumes. Our society thrives of busyness.  We need to set aside time to slow down to refresh and recharge ourselves. We need to spend quality time with our loved ones.  Gifts and money do not replace the human touch and fellowship.

  1. Accountability and mentoring. We all need people who speak into our lives. We need someone to bounce ideas off of. We need people who will tell us, not what we WANT to hear, but what we NEED to hear.  Who is your mentor?  Who is watching your back?
  1. Plan for tomorrow.  We never know what tomorrow holds.  The best time to save is today. Work on cutting down and eliminating your debt.  Live within your means. Do you really need that many pairs of shoes? Jeans?
  1. Encourage others. Be an encouraging machine. Many people we meet everyday are hurting.  Your encouragement may be all they need today. Go ahead encourage someone.
  1. Think before you speak. It is amazing how many times we hurt others through careless words because we did not think before we spoke.  Do you often suffer from the “foot in mouth disease”? Do you often regret what you say?  Remember words can hurt and destroy people for life.  Gossip and slander destroy community.  Proverbs 18: says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.”
  1. Negativity is contagious and poisons community. One bad apple can spoil the whole fruit basket. Sometimes it takes one negative person to affect the mood of a group, stealing everyone’s joy, and causing unnecessary sadness.  Read Psalms.  Hang around positive people.  Inject life by trying new foods, travel, or pick up a new hobby. Philippians 4: says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
  1. Gratitude is the best attitude. Ingratitude is a sign of immaturity. Entitlement. A simple thank you goes a long way.  It amazes me when I see people receive something and never utter a word.  They just grab it and go, like the world owes them something.  Don’t be that person.  Start expressing gratitude to everyone who has done something for you.  Say “thank you” always.  People often feel like you have taken them for granted, if you do not show gratitude. I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
  1. My friend, Andy Van Gerpen used to say, “No good deed goes unpunished.”   We do good, but that does not mean we people will do good to us.  Jesus did good all the time, yet they killed Him.  Many good people suffer.  Many suffer because they are good.  Do good anyway.

The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

The Secret Pain of Pastors

During my daily readings this week, I came across this insightful article by Philip Wagner. I hope the read will inform and bless you, like it did me.

The Secret Pain of Pastors

by Philip Wagner
“Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said that the four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in order, he added) are:

  • The President of the United States
  • A university president
  • A CEO of a hospital and
  • A pastor

Is that true? Pastors love God and love people. They get to pray for people, lead people to a faith in Jesus Christ, and teach the Word about God.
That’s the dream job. You can read the Bible all day, pray, play a little golf and preach. I want to do that!
Here is the secret. Being a pastor is hard work. It’s not for wimps. 
This is the reality—the job of a pastor can be 24/7 and carry unique challenges.

Some pastors wear themselves out trying to help people. Some wound their families because they are so involved in ministry. Others flourish in their ministry and personal life.
Approximately 85 percent of churches in America have less than 200 people. Sixty percent of churches are under 100 people. The average size congregation in the U.S. is 89 people, according to The Barna Group. Staffs are small, and needs are great. In many situations, the pastor needs to be a Bible teacher, accountant, strategist, visionary, computer tech, counselor, public speaker, worship director, prayer warrior, mentor, leadership trainer and fundraiser.

Who can be all of that?
Ninety percent of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they
thought it would be like before they entered the ministry. 

Seventy percent say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
Personally, I love being a pastor. I have a great staff. We have great people in our church. I am content whether going through good times or difficult seasons. Of course, it’s a lot easier to be “content” when things are good. I have great friends who are pastors. My marriage is strong. I am a better man because of my time in ministry.
Some of the unique problems that pastors face are:

1. Criticism 
Pastors can be criticized by a lot of people for a multitude of things.
 “Music is too loud. Worship is not long enough. It’s too long.”
“Sermon is not deep enough. It’s too long.” 
“Pastor thinks he’s too important. It took me three weeks to get an appointment.”
“You talk too much about money.”
“Can I talk to you for a minute, Pastor?” This simple question can cause a pastor to think: “Oy vey. Now what?”
We pastors need to find a way to not take criticism so personally and learn from truths that could be hidden in the criticism.

2. Rejection
Members leave, leaders leave and pastors’ friends leave. The reality is—people leave.
The smaller the church, the more obvious it is when people leave. Some leave for reasonable decisions; many leave ‘ungracefully.’ They leave the big churches, too—by the thousands.
People leave T.D. Jakes’ church, and they leave Andy Stanley’s church.
When our church had about 150 people and some would leave, it was so disappointing. I tried to console myself by thinking, “They may be leaving by the dozens here at Oasis, but thousands have left Jack Hayford’s church, and he’s a great pastor.” … That only helped for a minute.
“I’m leaving.”
“We want something deeper.”  
“My needs aren’t getting met.”
These comments can feel like a personal rejection.
Every pastor has heard, “I’m not getting fed here.” Bill Hybels has heard it. Wayne Cordero, Dino Rizzo, Ed Young, Craig Groeschel, Steven Furtick and Matthew Barnett have heard it.
Really? Not getting fed? In those churches? How is that possible?
One of the most difficult conditions to achieve is to have a “tough skin and a soft heart.” Love people, hold them lightly and don’t take it personally. 
“Uhhh, OK. Lord, help us.”

3. Betrayal

Trusting church members with personal burdens can backfire. They may end up telling the pastor’s personal issues to others. Staff leaders can take church members away. The pastor trusts a person with the platform or title, and that person uses the influence given to them to take people away. The Judas kiss.
Church staff causing problems is a betrayal. Pastors rightfully think, “I’m paying you to solve problems. I can get new problems for free. I don’t need to pay someone a salary to create them.” 

  • Forty  percent report a conflict with a church member at least once a month. 
  • Eighty five percent of pastors said their greatest problem is they are tired of dealing with problem people, such as disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members and associate pastors. 
    The #1 reason pastors leave the ministry is that church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction, but the people are not willing to follow or change. 
  • Forty percent of pastors say they have considered leaving their pastorates in the last three months.
    We pastors have to find a way, with God’s grace, to love people as if we have never been hurt before.

4. Loneliness
Who’s my friend? Who can I trust? If I tell another pastor my problems, will he criticize me, tell others or just treat me differently?
Seventy percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.
Are my friends really my friends or a church member who is a temporary friend who may leave any day now?
Healthy friendships are crucial to a fulfilling life, especially to the wellbeing of a pastor. Put special effort in this area.

5. Weariness 
Fifty percent of the ministers starting out will not last five years. 
Seventy percent felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only 50 percent still felt called. 
Keeping personally refreshed is an art and a science … and extremely important.
When fatigue comes in, you not only look half-empty, but also dirty, contaminated and undrinkable.

6. Frustrations & Disappointments
Disappointments come in many ways.

Because of smaller congregations, the average compensation package for pastors is between $35,000 and $40,000. There are many things pastors in this salary range are not able to do for their family that other people around them can do.
There are many areas of ministry in which judging “success” is difficult. Pastors can be hard on themselves. We work in an area that good work and good effort does not always guarantee success.

Many pastors work hard but are missing some kind of “X-factor.” They are good people, sincere believers, love God, know the Word, have great content in their sermons, but somehow it’s not clicking. It’s frustrating.

It’s like a worship leader who loves Jesus and has a great singing voice but somehow cannot lead people in an effective worship experience.
Some days, leaders feel like they can’t seem to do anything right. The ministry finally gets momentum, and then a leader in the church falls. Things are going well, and then a couple of your biggest givers leave.
The church needs money, but the pastor doesn’t want to put too much focus on money. It’s not about the money—but it becomes about the money.
All of this can be overwhelming. 

  • 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close. 
  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year. 
  • Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year. 
  • Fifty percent of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
    they could, but have no other way of making a living. 
  • 45.5  percent of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry. 

This is not the case for all pastors. In fact, many that I know have managed to handle these issues well. 

How Christians and church members can help:  

Pray for your pastor.
Pray for guidance, protection, healthy friends, their marriage and family. Pray for inspiration, anointing, the leadership team, unity and clarity. 

Protect your pastor.
As best as you can, don’t allow or participate in gossip and criticism. How can you serve and problem solve to prevent overload? 

Encourage your pastor.
Thank him or her for his or her work and ministry. Thank them for their sacrifice. Tell them a specific time in which you or someone you know experienced a life change in their church. Honor them to others. Let your pastors know you are praying for them. According to the Barna report—the profession of “pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman.”

The Secret Pain of Pastors by Philip Wagner – ChurchLeaders.com – Christian Leadership Blogs, Articles, Videos, How To’s, and Free Resources – Page// // // // // //

To Pastors.

Don’t give up, pastor! Persistence is powerful.

Keep on. Really! Your work, your labor of love and your sacrifice matters.

I realize the last thing a pastor needs is another sermon. But these verses have helped me. Hold on to God’s Word with your life.

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Gal. 6:9 NLT

Be careful of the comparison trap.

Looking at other ministries can be inspiring. Comparing yourself to other churches can be destructive and discouraging.

Make new pastor friends. Expose yourself to new influences, new leaders, churches or ministries that are doing some things differently.

Pastors that are struggling or are no longer in ministry may have unresolved hurts. I encourage you to find healing. Seek counseling; find a local Celebrate Recovery group; equip yourself with resources on healing (some examples are Safe People or Boundaries) and share your secrets with safe people. Remember, you’re only as sick as your secrets.

*The Fuller Institute, George Barna and Pastoral Care Inc. provide the statistics I have used in this post. 

Philip Wagner Philip Wagner is Lead Pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles and founder of Generositywater.org. Oasis is an innovative and racially diverse church, largely comprised of people in their 20’s & 30’s. Oasis is known for its local and global outreach to the impoverished; especially orphans and widows, and funding clean water projects. Philip and his wife, Holly, started Oasis in 1984, in Beverly Hills with10 people. Today they’ve grown to 3000+ members.

More from Philip Wagner or visit Philip at www.philipwagner.com/blog/

 

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I Just Wrote to Say “I Thank You.”

I Just Wrote to Say I Thank You –

Words of Gratitude to our Amazing Staff and Volunteers

 

I have seen you arrive at the crack of dawn to set up

I have seen you leave late cleaning up and locking up

I have seen you offer rides to the young and the old

I have seen you move around in the hot kitchen, cooking for us all

I have seen you write, type, design to make it all good

I have seen you teach, train, sing to equip and empower the church

I have seen you fix, mend, stop a leak to make it all good

I have seen you do it all

 

I have seen you lift heavy boxes of donations

I have seen you push wobbly carts full of food

I have seen you engage the highly active children

I have seen you pray with the ailing elderly

I have seen you greet, comfort, and visit the hurting

I have seen you do it all

 

I have noticed you hide the back pain

I have noticed you walk slower in pain

I have noticed the strain and exhaustion on your face

I have noticed the fatigue in your tired eyes

I have noticed the unrelenting service despite personal struggles

 

Can I do this one more day?

Why do they never say thank you?

Does anyone even notice all I do?

How long do I personally pay for these items?

You might have asked.

God has heard your sincere questions.

God has seen it all.  Nothing has escaped His watchful, loving eye.

 

No work you have done has gone unnoticed

No effort you have put in is unproductive

No investment you have made in God’s Kingdom is fruitless

Words may fail us, but our hearts are full of gratitude.

Hugs and thank yous may not have expressed it fully

But, we are truly grateful.

 

Today, we say thank you for your tireless efforts

Thank you for all you do for God and for our Corps

Thank you for your unmatched dedication and commitment to the ministry

Our corps would not be what it is, if it were not for your contribution

Thank you.  Tatenda. Siyabonga.

Things I have learned in my 40 years on planet earth

I have had the great honor and privilege of celebrating my 40th Birthday this week. I took time to reflect on 40 things I have learned in my 40 years on planet earth. I have decided to show you just 10 of the 40. Let me know if you need to see the rest.

Here goes…

  1. God is my everything. I could not be here today, if it were not of God’s amazing grace. He saved me, Hallelujah!
  2. Family matters. Friendships matter. No person is an island. We are created to live and function in the context of community.
  3. To my disappointment, I have learned that I do not know everything. What?!
  4. Be yourself. Be real. Be comfortable in your own skin.. Faking it to make it is stressful, difficult and exhausting.
  5. Respect people. Everyone is uniquely created in God’s image. Everyone is valuable. Everyone has a story. Get to know people at a deeper level.
  6. People will disappoint you. People will hurt you. People will let you down. It comes with being human.
  7. We are all sinners, fallen creatures, in desperate in need of salvation. No matter how good looking, wealthy, or educated we may be, we still need salvation.
  8. Forgiveness keeps relationships running. “Forgive each other, as in Christ Jesus you were forgiven.” – Ephesians 4:32 Forgive all. Leave the revenge to God.
  9. I have often wondered why no one thinks like me. Hahaha! It is a good thing not everyone thinks the way I do.
  10. Suffering is a guarantee. Sometimes things just do not work. Pain can happen to those already hurting. We may ask “Why?” We live in a fallen world. We look up to God in times of trouble.
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