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21 Great Books To Read In 2018

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More books and less binge-watching will transform your life!

The following books are in no particular order and speak to various areas of thought. From fiction to faith, I would encourage you to read widely and discerningly. Most people today read within a small circle of authors that they like and agree with. If you are only reading authors who think like you, there is limited growth happening in your soul. Read authors who come at things differently, think differently and even believe differently. Release your fear, you are stronger and more discerning than you think, and who knows, you just might gain some new insights or see things from a different perspective.

  1. The Go-Giver
  2. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
  3. Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible
  4. Sabbath As Resistance
  5. Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked
  6. The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness: A True Story
  7. Why You Think The Way You Do: The Story of Western Worldviews From Rome to Home
  8. Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God
  9. Man’s Search For Meaning
  10. 1984
  11. Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
  12. A Prayer For Owen Meany: A Novel
  13. The Sparrow
  14. How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
  15. As A Man Thinketh
  16. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
  17. Pilgrims Progress
  18. Eager To Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi
  19. Disunity In Christ
  20. The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Volumes 1 & 2
  21. Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

I’d love to hear what books have and are impacting you!

Please leave your recommendations in the comments.

Matzah, Maror, Kharoset and a Lazy-Boy

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In the midst of the sights, sounds and smells of Pesach (Passover) a young child stands to recite the Ma Nishtanah:

Why is this night different from all other nights?

  • On all other nights we can eat bread or matzoh. On this night why do we eat only matzoh?
  • On all other nights we can eat all kinds of vegetables. On this night why do we eat only bitter herbs?
  • On all other nights we do not dip our vegetables even once. On this night why do we dip them twice?
  • On all other nights we  eat our meals sitting or reclining. On this night why do we eat only reclining?

Four questions that really serve to answer the bigger question, “Why is this night so different from all other nights?”

As the questions are explained, a growing sense of thankfulness to God is ignited.

The four questions also serve as four paths to connect with God.

Humility is the first step on the path towards God.

Matzoh is not an elaborate or fancy bread. It is thin, looks somewhat strange and has no leaven in it. In haste the Children of Israel made their bread and were ready for God’s escape plan. The larger image here ,though, is of purity. In the Bible, leaven is a metaphor for sin. If we want to journey deeper with God, we start by admitting who we are and seek to become who we are meant to be. This is a humbling journey that reveals the darkness that resides within us. The good news is  that God longs to heal and restore and remove all the effects of sin in our lives.

Most of our energies are spent trying to gather attention, move up in the ranks, get noticed and find success. We want to be on the New York Times best seller list and have a video that goes viral. We want the biggest house, the nicest cars, the most lavish vacations and designer clothes. But the God-hungry long for holiness.

As leaven works through an entire batch of dough, sin affects the totality of our spirituality. When we begin to remove all the leavened (sinful) areas of our life, humility is a natural by-product.. Now we know that we are not “all that” ask God to do His cleansing work in us.

What things are you still trying to control?

What secret sin is robbing you of peace?

What hurt, habit or hang-up is tripping up your efforts to live a godly life?

In humility, we acknowledge our desperate need for God and seek to remove anything in our life that gets between us. This leads to the hard part of the path.

 

Brokenness is the hardest part of the path.

Maror. The bitter herbs are a reminder that the path is often hard, even as life was hard for the Children of Israel. Forced into slavery making bricks to build treasure cities for Pharoah. We make our horseradish sauce from this root, and when you eat a glob of it, you will cry some real tears!

What do you do when life goes sideways on you? How do you handle the sudden loss of a spouse, friend or job?

No one is exempt from pain and struggle. In fact, those fraternal twins are part of God’s process to expand your joy. That probably seems like a strange statement, but it is true. Without resistance muscles cannot grow. Without adversity your virtues are only theories. Without pain you will never know joy. Tears flow in life as a way for your heart to speak about the reality of life, love and loss. If you never cry, you have probably never loved.

Most of the people I know try to avoid pain at all cost…and that is why few people know God. The entrance to His presence is found in humility and brokenness. When you live in a culture that leans towards narcissism over humility and pretending to be someone you are not instead of brokenness, it is hard to know God.

God already knows all your secrets…and He loves you anyway.

God already knows how you will handle that stressful situation at work next week…and He loves you anyway.

God knows you just blew it with your daughter today…and He loves you anyway.

When you allow God to love you as you are, raw, naked and broken, you will begin to understand grace and know what real love is.

 

Presence is the surprise viewpoint along the path.

Kharoset. we have already dipped the Karpas into saltwater once. This reminds us that life (greens) is mixed with tears (saltwater). next we dip a second time  by taking some matzoh with maror and kharoset. The kharoset is a sweet mixture of apples, honey, nuts and wine. The sweet taste mixed with the bitter herb and the matzoh is surprisingly good.

Have you noticed that the good times seem to come with the bad times?

Beauty and pain ride twin rails of reality.

In the same day you might lose a father and welcome a new son.

All of these emotions are present in you at the same time. I think of a long, steep hike. Your muscles are tired, You are thirsty and out of breath, You might even be feeling the burn! Then, out of nowhere, you come upon a stunning view.

Even though your body is screaming your eyes are feeding your soul as you take in the beauty. It is in this moment that you realize that you are always surrounded by beauty, but sometimes it is obscured by the path we travel.

The most bitter of circumstances can be sweetened when we have the presence of God.

Humility and brokenness remove the veil that keeps you from seeing God.

He is always with you.

You are never alone.

This awareness transforms the brokenness in your life and infuses it with His living presence. There is still pain, but it is made sweeter, and you experience the goodness of God even in a dark time.

Humility, Brokenness and Presence reveal the path that you are on, and it is called freedom.

 

Freedom is not a destination, it’s a lifestyle.

Why do we recline tonight? The child asks. In the Exodus story, they ate standing up, ready to go because they were slaves. Slaves stand, free men and women recline in comfort. When you have experienced deliverance from slavery, a Lazy-boy is what you need!

Humility is the movement when we choose to actually leave Egypt (slavery, bondage).

Brokenness is the parting of the Red Sea. Only God can bring you through it.

Presence is God’s  sustaining power as you travel through the wilderness…but freedom…freedom is when you enter the Land of Promise.

Practicing His presence means that anyplace where you are is a promised land because God is there with you…freedom.

Practicing His presence sets you free to experience His grace and mercy in every moment…freedom.

Practicing His presence is a lifestyle of humility, brokenness…freedom.

Wherever God’s presence is…His power is there as well…freedom.

The power that created the universe is right there with you.

The power that rose Christ from the dead is right there with you.

The power that holds the universe together is right there with you.

The power to forgive and give you a fresh start is right there with you.

The power to free you from anything that disrupts the shalom of God in your life is right there with you.

So, why is this night so different?

This night reminds me that God is with me…For me…and leading me into greater expressions and experiences of His presence.

 

 

Experiencing Advent

I have always loved the season of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation, anticipation and reflection in the weeks leading up to the celebration of Jesus’ incarnation which we celebrate as Christmas.

Prophecies spoken and uniquely fulfilled in Jesus…

Light in the darkest days of the year…

Hope that night will end and something new will begin.

Advent not only looks backwards to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus…it also looks forward to His promised return.

Hope that love will end all war, division and hatred.

Belief that poverty, injustice and evil will be eliminated.

Courage to continue to do the next right thing until he comes, and the understanding that how I live today matters and makes a difference in how I will experience life when God re-invades earth to put all things right, and the universe experiences healing.

The season of Advent calls us to reflect, repent and realign our lives with the rhythm of God, and that is a good thing.

Here is an incredible day by dave journey through Advent created by Biola University…check it out and go back each day, it is well done and will be a great aid in your realigning this season,

Grace and peace
Monty

http://ccca.biola.edu/advent/#

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