Books can change our lives.
They bring us joy, move us to tears, and affect us in ways nothing else can. In my last post, "Three Books on my Bedside Table, Part I," I shared the first of three books that sit on my bedside table, New Morning Mercies, by Paul David Tripp. Today, I'll share Book #2 and Book #3. If you're looking for life-changing reading, these three are it.
Book #2: Live a Praying Life – Open Your Life to God’s Power and Provision, by Jennifer Kennedy Dean
I can list on one hand the books that have dramatically and permanently impacted my spiritual life. Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby, is one. Let Prayer Change Your Life, by Becky Tirabassi, is another. The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children, by Stormie Omartian, is another. Live a Praying Life is the most recent addition to my personal Book Hall of Fame.
For the past 20 years, I’ve studied prayer extensively, intensively, and experientially. I’ve taken classes, participated in Bible studies, and led weekend prayer conferences on the subject. I’ve grown tremendously in my prayer life and seen God do amazing and miraculous things in response to my prayers.
Yet I still have questions. Bible verses on prayer sometimes still don’t make sense. I continue to find some aspects of prayer confusing and contradictory.
Jennifer Kennedy Dean, in Live a Praying Life, tackles some of the deepest, most perplexing questions about prayer. She uses simple illustrations and explanations to make complex concepts clear without over-simplifying the principles.
Personally, one of the most enlightening chapters is the chapter called “Faith Is Required.” In it, Dean examines the promise of James 1:6-8:
“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord. . .”
She talks about the difference between belief and faith. “Faith is not ‘believing real hard.’ Faith is not shutting your eyes and drawing a long breath and willing yourself to believe something. You can make yourself believe anything, true or not. Believing something won’t make God do it. Belief is one thing; faith is something else.”
Her insight in this chapter and others helped me move past some of the confusion that hindered my prayer life and gives me confidence to approach God’s throne with boldness and trust, even though I have no idea how God will specifically answer my prayers.
Dean’s book has an accompanying Bible study that is perfect for small groups, large groups, or churches. I’m prayerfully hoping to lead a session in the future. Now more than ever, we need to be mighty prayer warriors who can do battle for our families, our communities, and the world.
Book #3: The John MacArthur Daily Bible
British New Testament scholar N. T. Wright said, “The Bible is the book of my life. It's the book I live with, the book I live by, the book I want to die by.” His conviction is my conviction, too.
More than 15 years ago I made the commitment to read the Bible through in a year. And I failed. The next year, I failed again. I’d start out strong, then wreck on the rocks of Leviticus, or Deuteronomy. Or, heaven help us, NUMBERS.
One year, however, fifteen months after I began, and for the first time in my life, I read through the whole Bible. I discovered amazing passages, and verses, and characters, and stories I had never read before. I fell in love with minor prophets whose names I still can’t spell. And I read every word of Leviticus. And Deuteronomy. And NUMBERS.
What made the difference?
I discovered The One Year Bible.
Available in several translations, The One Year Bible compiles a portion of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs for each day of the year. Each daily reading takes about 15 minutes to complete.
Because each day’s reading contains portions of the Old and New Testament as well as Psalms and Proverbs, if I hit a particularly challenging or dry portion of the Old Testament, the passage is relatively short and balanced by a more dynamic or interesting selection from the New Testament. This is what helped me read through Leviticus without giving up.
Since that year, I’ve read through the Bible at least eight more times. And every time, it gets better. Reading through the Bible means I encounter books and passages I wouldn’t normally choose to read, and in them I find treasure. There’s also often a surprising parallelism between many of the Old and New Testament passages. Since the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old, there’s a beautiful synergy.
I don’t read through the Bible every year. Sometimes the Lord leads me to use a different Bible reading method. But when I do, The One Year Bible is the most effective way to help me reach my goal.
I hope you have some excellent books on your bedside table to read and learn from in 2017. If you don’t, why not choose one or more of the ones I’ve mentioned here? And if you’re already read one of these, please leave a comment in the box below and tell me what you thought of it. I’d also be interested to hear what your Bible reading plan is for 2017.
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As you begin the new year, my prayer for you is that your faith will grow deeper, your love for God and mankind will grow stronger, and your witness for Christ will grow braver and stronger. Who knows, perhaps this will be the year that Christ returns. Will he find us faithful?
If you missed Part I of "3 Books on my Bedside Table," CLICK HERE.