Reading Lists & the New Year

Do you make goals or reading lists?

All About: Books, Coffee, Cats

Do you make reading goals? What about New Year’s resolutions related to your reading? New Year’s is probably my favorite secular holiday (my favorite holiday is Easter – celebrating the resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ). With the new year is a sense of a fresh start, making goals, and an anticipation of what is coming.

I have an annual goal for how many books I try to read. I also love to make lists, though sticking to that list doesn’t usually happen. 🙂 Last year I didn’t put together a reading list for the year but this year I decided to put a list together, even if I don’t actually stick to that list for what I read. Part of it is my desire to read books I already have and not accumulate a lot more.

Here are some of the books that I am hoping to…

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When the Waiting Is Long

Solid Food Resources

John 11 tells us the story of Lazarus and of Jesus raising him from the dead. In J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on John Volume 2, he brings out that Mary and Martha went through a period of waiting on Jesus to answer their pleas. When their brother fell sick, they sent word to Jesus. Most likely, they expected that Jesus would come right away and heal their brother. But Jesus didn’t come. And then Lazarus died. Were they confused and perplexed, wondering why Jesus hadn’t come or even just spoken a word that would have healed their brother? They knew He was able. They knew He had often healed many who were sick. And yet He had not answered their prayer. Then Lazarus was buried and had been dead for 4 days when Jesus finally arrived. In their waiting, the desires and plans they had for their brother had…

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God Does His Best Work with Empty

God Does His Best Work with Empty by Nancy Guthrie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What a fabulous book! This was very timely for me as we go through a struggle of job loss and waiting on God to provide. Such good reminders in this book of God’s faithfulness to His people. Nancy uses stories of emptiness in the Bible to show us how God uses emptiness to do a work in His people. He is the One that satisfies and fills.
The chapter on Habakkuk was great! “In spite of loss we can rejoice, confident that all we truly need is ours in Christ.” We look at how God has acted in the past, so we can trust Him for our future. “When Habakkuk looked around at his present reality, he could not see that God was doing anything at all. But he looked back at what God had done in the past for his people, and he considered what God had promised to do in the future, and on that basis he chose to trust God in the present.”
Her paraphrase of Habakkuk 3:17-19:
Even if my income dries up
And my savings are gone,
Even if I face a devastating diagnosis
And lose my dignity in the process,

Even if my integrity is questioned
And my reputation ruined;
Yet I will choose daily to be happy in Christ.
I will smile at the future because I am protected and provided for in Christ.

None of these things is the source of my strength or security; God alone is my strength.
Christ in me enables me to navigate dangerous and difficult circumstances.
Because of Christ, I know that my future is full of glory.

Waiting on God

Waiting is hard. Especially when there is uncertainty and unknown. Yet we spend so much of our time on this earth waiting. Sometimes it’s waiting on others. Sometimes it’s waiting for news. Sometimes it’s waiting for a time limit to expire. It’s easy to get caught up in impatience, wanting the waiting to be over, to move on to the next step. But how many stories in the Bible do we have of people who had to wait? While we may not know the details of their time of waiting, we know that they had to wait, not knowing the future, uncertain of what God would do.
For example: Moses – 40 years as a shepherd in the wilderness, not knowing that God was still going to use his gifts of leadership to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt. Perhaps he thought he had misunderstood his calling in life. Perhaps he thought his gifts had been wasted while he watched over sheep. Yet God was using that time of waiting to prune him, train him, prepare him. Paul – spent many years in prison, not able to use his gifts of public speaking and teaching. Yet he used that time to write much of Scripture. Joseph – sold into slavery by his brothers, then imprisoned wrongly and forgotten for another 2 years before coming to prominence.
God doesn’t waste time. He will use the time of waiting. Whether it’s to teach us patience, or dependence on Him, or to use whatever gifts or ministry He puts in front of us. Right now, we wait. Wait for Jono to find a job, uncertain when or what that will be. Will we run out of money? How long will he be without a job? We don’t know the answers to these questions, but we know that God does. We wait for the restrictions to lift so we can return to church without having to wear face masks. We trust that God’s timing in that is perfect, regardless of how we feel.
How can I be productive during this time of waiting? How can I keep my focus on God, on living for Him, glorifying Him? He is teaching me to depend on Him, to trust Him. Who He is can be seen in His Word. Pointing others to Christ – not being angry or impatient while waiting – these are things I can work on.

Waiting…

Wondering, pondering, waiting
Not sure what will be
Will this soon be over?
Or last for eternity? 😊

Living in isolation
Missing friends at church
How can I make an impact
When I myself am in a lurch?

Grocery shopping’s a nightmare
No more convenience for me
Why can’t I find what I needed?
No veggies, no beef, no TP.

Waiting on God’s sovereign purpose
He never stops working you know
Though life has become complicated
My God’s power and glory will show

I hate waiting, not knowing what’s coming
Uncertainty a burden to bear
But God in His wisdom sustains us
His grace and mercy prove His care

I don’t what’ll happen tomorrow
But tomorrow belongs to the King
He rules in justice and power
Of His faithfulness I will sing

Will I trust God in the waiting?
His promise and Word are sure;
He gives me peace in the unknown
I know that His plan is secure.

God’s Word will endure forever
His timing is always right.
I may wait in the meantime
But I know that He is my light.

-April 19, 2020 during Covid-19 Quarantine

Comfort & Convenience Idol, Part 2

Who knew when I wrote this post last summer that the Coronavirus would hit in 2020 and knock the world out of sync? How many of us are discovering the idols of our hearts during this time of social distancing and isolation? This pandemic is showing how much we are really not in control. For believers, the hope we have in God and His sovereignty is a sustaining source of strength. He is faithful, though often we don’t understand His purpose or what He is doing.

Life is hard right now. And there is the possibility that it might get even harder. Not being able to meet together for church with other believers has been difficult. I miss the fellowship and encouragement that comes from our time of worship together. I miss the ministries that I am part of: teaching my 1st-4th grade Sunday School kids, hanging out with the youth group, meeting for one-to-one Bible reading with one of the girls in my church, meeting for our ladies’ Bible study and prayer time. Not knowing when I might be able to be part of these things again adds to the difficulty.

When we moved a year ago from Michigan to PA, God taught us much about trusting Him even when things don’t make sense. Having to leave behind much-loved ministries was difficult, but it taught us that our lives belong to God and He determines what ministries we will be part of. Now having adjusted to PA and immersed ourselves in new ministries here, those ministries are now on hold. Once again it is a reminder that God determines the paths of our lives and what ministries He wants us to be part of. The important thing is that we are continuing to trust Him and obey Him even during the dark times. And when we fail (as so often we do), we look once again to Him for the grace and strength to make it through. Jesus already lived the perfect life that we cannot. We can rest in His righteousness, yet still pressing on to grow in our faith, asking God to strengthen our trust in Him.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:28-31

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. – Hebrews 13:15-16

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 5:8-11

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. – Hebrews 12:1-3

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. – Galatians 6:9-10

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:57-58

When Convenience & Comfort Are an Idol

We too easily take things for granted in this modern world that we live in, with all its technological advances and time-saving machines and gadgets. Electricity, running water, hot water: all things that are a normal part of our lives these days, yet not everyone in the world has access to these conveniences. When we lose this convenience, our reaction can show how it has become an idol.

Our hot water heater went out last Saturday. Because we have a home warranty from purchasing this home in February, we have to go through the home warranty company to get it fixed. The technician came out Monday and recommended we get a new hot water heater. This is not the first time we’ve had trouble with the heater since we moved in earlier this year. However, in spite of the technician’s recommendation to the warranty company, they are having parts ordered instead of replacing the heater. As a result, we still have no hot water while we wait for the parts to come in and be installed.

On the positive side, living just up the hill from my family, allows the advantage of running over to their place to get a hot shower. We still have running water which allows us to still wash clothes and use the bathroom. While our dishwasher remains unusable until we have hot water, I have heated up water in our tea kettle to wash some dishes by hand to get us by. These things, while they help to deal with the situation, are not convenient. It’s a hassle to have to run down the road when I want to take a shower. It’s a pain to heat up water to have to hand wash a few dishes. Yet how many people live their lives without access to hot water or even running water? I am incredibly spoiled. And while convenience is nice, it is not a given or a right in this life. Was it convenient for Jesus to give up the riches of heaven and live in this sin-cursed world for over 30 years? Was it comfortable for Him to bear the cross and the shame, enduring the wrath of God for my sins, including my idol of wanting things to be convenient and comfortable? Ouch!

May we learn to be thankful and grateful for the conveniences and comforts of life, rather than taking them for granted. The blessing of eternal life that God has granted me through Jesus Christ far outweighs any comfort or convenience that I may have in this life.

Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke

Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media AgeCompeting Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age by Tony Reinke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Convicting book of how our image-saturated society continually grabs our attention, often dragging it away from Christ and onto its own delights and pleasures. While not calling Christians to leave the world (Scripture doesn’t tell us to do this), it does caution us for what we allow to grab our attention. The grandest spectacle in all history was the cross and Christ’s death on our behalf. Yet too often we are mesmerized by what the world produces as spectacles – movies, video games, social media. If these are taking our attention away from the spectacle of Christ and His glory, then we need to re-evaluate our use of them.
At the end of the book, he gives some guidelines to helps us. Be aware of what we may be watching and participating in that is actually worthless. What things are we consuming that may actually be sin? Don’t be manipulated by that which is worthless. Other applications are given for dealing with the temptations that we all must face in our current technological society. Not everyone will come away with the same conclusions – there is liberty and Christian freedom in this area.

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

Reformed Systematic Theology

Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 1: Volume 1: Revelation and GodReformed Systematic Theology, Volume 1: Volume 1: Revelation and God by Joel R. Beeke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first volume in a planned series of 4, this new systematic theology is well-written and easily readable for the layperson. Dealing with the introduction to theology and theology proper, other volumes will tackle other areas of theology such as Christology and soteriology, etc. I found it interesting in this volume as they defined theology and differentiated it from doctrine and dogma. I tend to think of theology and doctrine being the same thing, but in this book they show the difference in definition.

Written from a Reformed perspective and drawing on church history, this theology tome looks to be an excellent start to a solid systematic theology for those who have a Reformed, covenantal view. At the end of each chapter is a hymn of worship, for theology is practical and leads us to praise the God Whom we are studying. Also at the end of each chapter are discussion questions, both for the layperson and the scholar, which provide opportunity for groups to go through this together and learn together. This could thus be used to do a group study together, and could also be used as a textbook for college classes.

With over 1,000 pages to read, I have not finished this volume yet, but am thoroughly enjoying it thus far and am eager for the next 3 volumes to come out. This is an excellent addition to one’s library and a great reference and resource on theology.

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle from the publisher Crossway in exchange for my review.

The Importance of Being in God’s Word

Like most people, I have struggled in the past with being consistent in being in God’s Word. What helped me to finally develop a daily habit of reading the Bible was doing the Bible in 90 Days back in 2012. Because I needed to be reading it every day to keep pace with the large chunks of reading, it developed the habit of reading every day. Now it has become a normal part of my routine.

As I currently am going through a transition time of moving from Michigan to Pennsylvania, my life has drastically changed. While in the process of joining a new church and new ministries, I’m not currently involved in any local ministries. I miss my church and friends in Michigan, as well as the ministries that I was involved with there. I struggle with loneliness as I begin making new friends here. Depression will set in as I struggle with my life not being what I want it to be right now. I am learning again the importance of trusting God, for His way is best, even when I don’t see it and can’t understand. I must also develop patience, waiting on God’s timing and the right ministries that He has for me.

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One of the current Bible studies I am doing is a study for those struggling with depression. It has been a huge encouragement and help to me as I struggle through this transition. This has been a reminder to me that it is important to continue being in God’s Word, even when our feelings and emotions aren’t wanting to. Many have said when they aren’t in the Word because they are struggling emotionally that they don’t want to “just go through the motions” or feel like they are just checking off a to-do item. However, if we don’t read the Bible because the feelings aren’t there, we will continue to struggle with the feelings and we rob ourselves of a source of strength in changing those feelings. God uses His Word to encourage us, to draw us back to Him, to put truth into our minds and hearts, and to change our feelings. Reading the Bible even when we don’t feel like it helps us to bombard our hearts and minds with truth. As we think on these truths, our thoughts help to change our emotions.

So if you are struggling emotionally and don’t feel like reading your Bible, do it anyway! God’s Word does not return void. He will change your heart. Keep pressing on in spite of how you feel.

Psalm 102

A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.

 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
    in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
    answer me speedily in the day when I call!

For my days pass away like smoke,
    and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
    I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning
    my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
    like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake;
    I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
All the day my enemies taunt me;
    those who deride me use my name for a curse.
For I eat ashes like bread
    and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger;
    for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11 My days are like an evening shadow;
    I wither away like grass.

12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
    you are remembered throughout all generations.
13 You will arise and have pity on Zion;
    it is the time to favor her;
    the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold her stones dear
    and have pity on her dust.
15 Nations will fear the name of the Lord,
    and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
16 For the Lord builds up Zion;
    he appears in his glory;
17 he regards the prayer of the destitute
    and does not despise their prayer.

18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
    so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:
19 that he looked down from his holy height;
    from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
    to set free those who were doomed to die,
21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord,
    and in Jerusalem his praise,
22 when peoples gather together,
    and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.

23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;
    he has shortened my days.
24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away
    in the midst of my days—
you whose years endure
    throughout all generations!”

25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27     but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
    their offspring shall be established before you.