We live in such a privileged time. Our ancestors would be overawed by the huge amount of resources available to us today – especially on the high street and online. Information. Guidance. Advice. There’s so much, so much so that the choice is almost overwhelming. Where do we start, to find true wisdom? One of the best places is in books.
Victor Hugo said: ‘To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.’ And he’s right! If you want to be enlightened and fired up for life, then read. That’s why for a number of years now I’ve blogged about some of the books that I’ve read over the past year that have inspired me and that I hope will help others who are seeking to follow Jesus well. So here’s my annual offering for the coming year.
What’s different to last year is that I’ve produced them in a Top 10 list. What’s the same as last year is that I’ve produced two lists: this one, for those who want to grow as disciples, and a separate one for those who want to grow as leaders. If you’re encouraged by the lists, get hold of one of the books and then make some time and space to read it – either over a few days when you have a bit of down-time, or by reading a little very day.
Finally, do forward this blog to others if it’s helpful, and also consider commenting below. I’d love to hear from you.
So here we go: 10 good books for disciples for 2019.
10. Mary Kissell’s Before the Days Draw In
At number 10 and 9 are two very different autobiographical books.
The first is from Mary Kissell, who tells her lovely life-story and how her relationship with God has grown over many decades. This really is, as the blurb says, ‘a rich and moving memoir’ which ‘tells the incredible story of how simply following the Holy Spirit’s leading saw countless people impacted around the world and the most heart-rending situations transformed.’
9. Brian Houston’s There is More
This book by Brian Houston is written in a contrasting style to Kissell’s and describes how by building our lives around godly principles, surrounding ourselves with wisdom, and living for a cause greater than ourselves, we can effectively live out God’s purposes and have an enduring impact. Using stories from his own experience and church, Houston, who is senior leader of the Hillsong Churches, encourages us to aim higher and leave a lasting legacy. The book is based on Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
8. Kris Vallotton’s Poverty, Riches & Wealth
This book will challenge your thinking about resources and finance. It’s not a get-rich book. It’s not, as some think, encouraging the so-called ‘prosperity gospel.’ Rather it compares two cultures – that of poverty and that of wealth, urging disciples to change their mind-set. This is not the last word on money, but there’s much wisdom here that will challenge the poverty mentality of ‘not enough’ that many in UK churches are blind to.
7. Erling Kagge’s Silence – in the Age of Noise
My son Joel bought me this delightful book early in 2018, and I loved it! It’s very short and inspiring. Kagge is the first explorer in history to reach ‘the three poles’ – North, South and the summit of Everest. This delightful little book teaches us how to find precious moments of silence – whether we are crossing the Antarctic, climbing Everest, or on the train at rush hour.
6. Allan Jenkins’ Morning
There’s no better time to be thoughtful, reflective, imaginative and creative than in the mornings. If you need convincing, read this book. It will cause you to rethink how you use your time and your mornings. Jenkins is not writing as a committed Christian but followers of Jesus will find this lovely book confirms what the Bible urges – for us to awaken early and meet God in the mornings.
5. Paul & Becky Harcourt’s Walking on Water
This simple narrative by Paul and Becky Harcourt, who lead New Wine England, describes their personal and corporate journeys into the supernatural, which includes miracles, signs, and wonders. It includes Becky’s powerful testimony of restoration after tragedy and shows how God is faithful and able to heal and transform, releasing us to step into things we never believed possible.
4. Johannes Hartl’s Heart Fire
The next two books are both about prayer.
Johannes’s book Heart Fire is subtitled Adventuring into a Life of Prayer and is his autobiographical story, describing how he become a person committed to prayer. Johannes and his wife Jutta founded and lead the Augsburg House of Prayer in Germany, which now attracts thousands of young people each year. I’ve met Johannes and he lives what he writes. I loved reading this book. It made me want to get to know God better, to be braver and more trusting, and to enjoy the adventure of prayer.
3. Pete Greig’s Dirty Glory
This is just an excellent book on prayer! I bought it when it was first published in 2016 but only got round to reading it this year. Maybe I was slightly overawed by its size (of just under 400 pages) but once I started reading I found it was easy to read and I just couldn’t put it down! Greig describes through story how he and others have learned to pray. It includes some remarkable stories and profound teaching. Greig cites the wisdom of saints of old as well as clearly communicating a message for people today: that God answers prayer so, as the subtitle says: go where your best prayers take you.
2. Mark Batterson’s Chase the Lion
Mark Batterson writes like he speaks. With insight, humour, clarity and challenge. I love hearing him speak and reading his books. This book urges us to pursue God’s dreams for our lives with passion and purpose. Page after page I found myself underlining phrases and sentences full of insight and wisdom. My heart was genuinely stirred by reading this book whilst away – so much so that on my return I bought copies for all my sons!
1. The Bible
I will end with the book of books – The Bible. This has been the book which I’ve read every day this past year. It’s been my constant companion and the first thing I’ve read when I wake up. I’ve never been disappointed by this book because it is what it claims to be – the word of God. God has spoken through it like no other. That’s why, now I’m listing these books in Top 10 order, I can do not other than place The Bible as my number 1 book for 2019. Read it and be inspired, convicted and nourished. As you read it, my prayer is that you’ll discover with the apostle Paul that it’s ‘useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Happy New Year 2019!