Tag Archives: Christ

Three Christmas Books by Max Lucado

Max Lucado is one of my all-time favorite writers. In addition to his large stable of Christian Living books he has written several Christmas books. Here are 3 you should check out:

“From New York Times best-selling author Max Lucado comes a timeless message that will warm your heart. Imagine a Victorian England village in the Cotswolds where very little out of the ordinary ever happens . . . except at Christmas time. This year, Edward Haddington, a lowly candle maker, is visited by a mysterious angel. That angel silently imparts a precious gift—a gift that’s bungled and subsequently lost. The candle maker and his wife, Bea, struggle to find the gift. And when they do, they have to make a difficult choice. Who among their community is most in need of a Christmas miracle?”

Erich’s note: this book has also recently been released as a film — official movie website.

“Was the birth of Jesus a quietly profound event? Or could it have included heavenly battles, angel armies, and a scheming Satan? Come along as Lucado takes us on a journey into his imagination-pulling back the curtain as we see what might have taken place on Cosmic Christmas.”

“These stories—like your favorite Christmas ornaments—come in all shapes and sizes. They unfold in a variety of settings, from ancient Bethlehem to rural England. From a small Texas town to the heavenly realms. Some are short. Others many chapters long. Some offer reflections. Others imagine Christmas through the eyes of a burnt-out candle maker, a lonely business man, or heavenly angels.Yet all are vintage Lucado, and all resonate with the wonder of the season. “In the mystery of Christmas,” Max writes, “we find its majesty. The mystery of how God became flesh, why he chose to come, and how much he must love his people. Such mysteries can never be solved, just as love can never be diagrammed. Christmas is best pondered, not with logic, but imagination.” That’s what each of these unique Christmas stories help us do. In the midst of the bustle and hurry that often distracts us this time of year, these stories free us to explore the ways in which Christ’s coming has forever changed history—and us.”

Your turn… What are some other Christmas books we should check out?

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Three Resources Designed to Make Your Marriage Better

Last month the post, Three Resources Designed to Improve Your Marriage, was the most viewed post in the short history of my blog (and that’s not saying much but it did hit on a topic many people felt was relevant). I believe the primary reason for this is because marriage can be difficult (so we are always looking for resources to make them better). Growing a better marriage takes a lot of work (and sacrifice); so, here are 3 more resources designed to make your marriage better:

“There are over 1500 services for online dating today. We’ve invented internet dating, speed dating and even television dating. But more relationships are falling apart than ever before. Which begs the question, why is a culture that is so focused on falling in love, so bad at staying in love?” 

Erich’s note: I love the creative approach that Jonathan and his team at the Highland Church in Abilene, TX is taking with this series that talks about a new perspective on love, sex, marriage and dating.  Make sure you take some time exploring The Sequels website and all the resources associated with this series, especially the free Sequels eBook (you will be blessed and your marriage will be better for it).

“Modern culture would have you believe that everyone has a soul-mate; that romance is the most important part of a successful marriage; that marriage does not mean til death do us part, but merely for as long as my needs are being met; and that when serious differences arise, divorce is the best solution.  

According to the bible, all of these modern-day assumptions miss what marriage is all about. In The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller, along with Kathy, his wife of thirty-six years, draws a profound portrait of marriage from the pages of Scripture that neither idealizes nor rejects the institution but points us back to the relationship between God and man. The result is a vision for marriage that is refreshingly frank and unsentimental, yet hopeful and beautiful. This book is for anyone from singles, to couples considering marriage, to those who have been married recently or for a long time.”

Erich’s note: I love everything I’ve read by Keller so far (The Reason for God; The Prodigal God; Counterfeit Gods; Generous Justice and Galatians For You to name a few — you can find more info on all of Keller’s books on his website). This is one of the best books written on the subject of marriage (you really should read it; in fact, my 17 year old son, Spencer, has read it a couple of times already and recommends it to his high school friends which just goes to show you can never start too early preparing for marriage).

“Growthtrac.com is a Christian non-profit media ministry — we are a marriage organization that strengthens marriages by providing life-changing, Christ-centered resources through innovative online media. Our objective is to support marriage through expert content — unique content that is practical and culturally relevant. Our world cannot settle simply for “good” marriages. Marriages can and must grow into great marriages. With the right support, strength, and resources, every marriage can become the exhilarating, rich union God intended. Those marriages can change the world. That’s our passion.”

Erich’s note: I just recently discovered this website but have bookmarked it as I’ll be going back often to find resources to help me build a better marriage (looks like they have lots of great content). You might want to start with this article first, It Doesn’t Begin in the Bedroom.

One last note: Before I close I want to mention another resource a friend recommended in a comment from the post last month (I haven’t read the book yet but I’m familiar with the author and know that it will be one you’ll find helpful) — What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage by Paul Tripp.

Your turn… What are some other resources you’ve used to improve your marriage?

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Three Helpful Resources from LifeChurch.tv

LifeChurch.tv is one of the fastest growing and most innovative churches in America (and one of my favorite churches). One of the things I love most about LifeChurch.tv is how they give away free resources designed to help people become fully devoted followers of Jesus. Here are 3 in particular I think you will find helpful:

Chazown is the Hebrew word for vision, and it’s what God had in mind for you when you were created. The Chazown Experience is based on a book by Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor of LifeChurch.tv. Chazown helps you discover and pursue your purpose—the reason God placed you on earth. Featuring video segments and step-by-step personal exercises, this free online life-planning experience is designed to help you find, name, and live out your unique vision – your Chazown.

A free, easy-to-use Bible study tool for anyone, anytime, anywhere designed to help you in the following ways:

  • Get to know the Bible better by exploring its key stories, themes, and characters. Discuss unifying key beliefs of Christianity without getting tangled up in divisive beliefs. Allow Scripture to shape your thoughts and actions as you learn how Christ lived. Enrich relationships with other followers of Christ, and develop through the study of Scripture within community.

YouVersion is a simple, ad-free Bible that brings God’s Word into your daily life (a free Bible for your phone, tablet, and computer). See the related articles below for more details.

Your turn… What are some resources from other churches that you’ve found to be helpful?

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Filed under Bible, Spiritual Formation, Technology

Three Resources That Focus on Learning to Live As Jesus Taught

I believe it is possible to learn to live as Jesus taught. That is what the process of Spiritual Formation is all about (putting on the character of Christ). And that is what this trilogy of books aims to do. James Bryan Smith believes the gospel is about change in our lives today, not just our eternal destiny. In his Apprentice Series he aims to help Christians develop a robust discipleship by helping them understand who God is, what it means to be a Christian and what it means to live in community as a part of God’s kingdom. You’ll find all 3 of these books helpful if your desire is to learn to live as Jesus taught:

We all have ideas that we tell ourselves about God and how he works in our lives. Some are true–but many are false. James Bryan Smith believes those thoughts determine not only who we are, but how we live. In fact, Smith declares, the most important thing about a person is what they think about God. The path to spiritual transformation begins here.

“I have never met a person whose goal was to ruin his or her life. We all want to be happy, and we want it all of the time.” So begins James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful Life. The problem is, he tells us, we have bought into false notions of happiness and success. These self-centered decisions lead us further into the vices that cause ruin: anger, lust, lying, worry and judging. Eventually we find ourselves living a beautifully packaged life of self-destruction. Following the Sermon on the Mount, this follow-up to The Good and Beautiful God guides us to look behind these character flaws and to replace our false beliefs with Jesus’ narratives about life in the kingdom of God.

In this third book in the Apprentice Series, James Bryan Smith helps us know how to live in relationship with others as apprentices of Jesus. “Apprentices of Jesus are not part-time do-gooders,” he writes. “They live in continuous contact with the kingdom of God, and are constantly men and women in whom Christ dwells. They do not sometimes tell the truth, sometimes live sacrificially or sometimes forgive. There are myriad opportunities for us to impact the world in which we live.”

Erich’s note: This series came about as the result of his learning from two great men, Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Foster was a mentor to him and James eventually served as a teaching assistant to Willard for more than 10 years. It was during that time that Willard encouraged him to create “a curriculum for Christlikeness.” You can learn more about this series including downloading some leader guides for taking groups of people through this curriculum by visiting their website.

Your turn… What are some other books on Spiritual Formation that you’ve found to be helpful?

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Three Books That Have Impacted My Life the Most

I’ve read a lot of books through the years. Outside of the Bible these 3 have impacted my life the most:

Is Jesus part of your daily life—here and now? Or, by failing to take him seriously, have you relegated him to the realm of the “hereafter”? In The Divine Conspiracy, biblical teaching, popular culture, science, scholarship, and spiritual practice are weaved together to capture the central insights of Christ’s teachings in a fresh way and show the necessity of profound changes in how we view our lives and faith.

Christians for the most part consider the primary function of Christianity to be admittance to heaven. But a faith that guarantees a satisfactory afterlife, yet has absolutely no impact on life in the here and now, is nothing more than “consumer Christianity” and “bumper-sticker faith.” In an era when so many consider Jesus a beloved but remote savior, readers of The Divine Conspiracy will explore a revolutionary way to experience God—by knowing Him as an essential part of the here and now, an integral part of every aspect of our existence.

Erich’s note: This book came out in 1998 and has been considered a masterpiece by many ever since and it’s impact will continue to grow even after the recent “passing” of Dallas Willard on May 8, 2013 (you can view his memorial celebration here). This book focuses on the true meaning of Christian Discipleship and Spiritual Formation. The thing that first resonated with me when I read it several years ago was the discovery that the eternal kind of life begins now (the gospel is about living now, not just for dying / for “someday”). These 3 chapters are priceless: Chapter 2) Gospels of Sin Management; Chapter 8) On Being a Disciple, or Student, of Jesus; and Chapter 9) A Curriculum for Christlikeness. The middle section of this book explores the Sermon on the Mount in great depth. As Richard Foster says in the foreword, “It helps me see that the teachings of Jesus are intelligent and vital and intently practical.” Disclaimer: it is not an easy, quick read but it is well worth the time and effort. I’m sure you’ll find yourself going back to it as frequently as I do.

You can live a deeper, more Spiritual life right where you are. The heart of Christianity is transformation—a relationship with God that impacts not just our “spiritual lives,” but every aspect of living. John Ortberg calls readers back to the dynamic heartbeat of Christianity—God’s power to bring change and growth—and reveals both the how and why of transformation. As with a marathon runner, the secret to winning the race lies not in trying harder, but in training consistently—training with the spiritual disciplines. The disciplines are neither taskmasters nor an end in themselves. Rather they are exercises that build strength and endurance for the road of growth. The fruit of the Spirit—joy, peace, kindness, etc.—are the signposts along the way.

Erich’s note: This book actually introduced me to Dallas Willard as Ortberg even notes in his preface that a private working title for this book was Dallas for Dummies. Willard had an enormous impact on Ortberg’s life (read what Ortberg wrote after Willard’s death). I love how it focuses on spiritual disciplines in a fresh, ordinary way. You’ll discover this helpful and significant principle for transformation: “There is an immense difference between training to do something and trying to do something.” You will find this to be an easy, practical and life-changing book to read.

Max Lucado takes you through the drama of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—bringing to life Peter’s denial, Pilate’s hesitancy, and John’s loyalty. Relive the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, from the foggy garden of Gethsemane to the incandescent room of the resurrection. No Wonder They Call Him the Savior leads you up the hill of mankind’s highest hope and reminds you why he deserves to be called our Savior.

Erich’s note: I grew up in a very conservative church in Ashland, MS. I had a great experience there and it was there where by spiritual life began to form. But it wasn’t until I was a freshmen in college that I began to first learn about grace and it was this book by Max Lucado that begin to revolutionize how I saw Jesus and experienced God’s grace. Max has written many great books since this one back in 1986 but this one will always have a special place in my heart. If you haven’t ever read yet it check it out. If you have, it might be time to read it again.

Your turn… What 3 books have had the most impact on your life so far? Also, if you’ve read any of these take a moment and share some thoughts about them.

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Three of My Favorite Verses

Earlier this week I posted about some of my favorite sermon podcasts. It was hard to narrow that list to 3. It’s even harder to narrow the list of my favorite verses. I thought it would be good to reflect on a few as we move into the weekend (on Monday I’ll share 3 books outside of the Bible that have impacted my life the most). But for now, here are the verses that are most meaningful to me today:

  • “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Erich’s note: God’s love for us amazes me. Scripture reminds us that He lavishes His great love on us (that means He pours it on us without limit) and calls us His children.  And since that seems too good to be true, John has to remind us, “And that is what we are!” So, as you go through this day no matter what circumstances you face or what voices you hear; never forget that your Father loves you!

  • “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Erich’s note: The main reason I love this verse is because it reminds me that God demonstrated His love for us while we were still sinners. He didn’t wait for us to get better (as if we could on our own) but He became one of us at just the right time (when we needed it the most) so that He could save all of us. Now that’s good news!

  • “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Erich’s note: This verse is important to me because I know there are so many things in the world that go after my heart. Our hearts have been so badly bent out of shape by the world in which we live that they no longer look like the hearts shaped by God.  Dallas Willard notes, “The greatest need you and I have is the renovation of our heart.  That spiritual place within us from which outlook, choices, and actions come has been formed by a world away from God.  Now it must be transformed” (Renovation of the Heart, 14). So, we must guard our hearts above all else…

Your turn… What are some of your favorite verses?

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Three Books I’m Currently Reading

I love to read. I usually have 2-3 books going at once. Here are the 3 I’m currently reading (with descriptions from the publishers):

The premise of the book is simple and 100% Biblical: when Jesus was on the earth, He was rejected everywhere He went . . . from Bethlehem, to Nazareth, to Jerusalem. The only exception was the little village of Bethany.  The curtain opens with Lazarus, who is now ready to die, telling the incomparable story of Jesus’ interactions with him, Martha, and Mary. God’s Favorite Place on Earth blends drama, devotion, theology, biblical narrative, and first-century history. Within each narrative, the common struggles that we Christians face are addressed and answered.

Erich’s note: This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It won’t take you long to breeze through it but I imagine you’ll be thinking about it for quite awhile afterwards. The story is told in six parts from the vantage point of Lazarus. At the end of each part Frank has a “walking it out” section that helps us practically apply what we’ve learned. By the way, if you love the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus I would encourage you to also spend some time with these 4 messages by Steven Furtick from Elevation Church (the 4th one is by Jonathan Martin) —  The Expectation Gap

When it comes to their spiritual journey, many men feel defeated. Hindered by ‘giants’ they stand motionless feeling like wimps instead of warriors. Whether they feel intimidated, unmotivated or just downright out of touch with what it means to pursue a relationship with God, Facing Goliath offers help to every man who wants to overcome his giants and experience a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. Addressing topics like intellectual doubt, fear, pride and selfishness men will find practical steps to discovering the answers to questions, of faith, salvation and spiritual growth.

Erich’s note: I’m just getting started with this one. I don’t know much about JP but I received this book from Kenny Luck, Men’s Pastor at Saddleback Church & founder of Every Man Ministries, due to our connections with Men’s Ministry. It looks like a book that will equip men to face their “giants” with courage. Each chapter includes a discussion page that looks great for personal reflection or small group interaction.

Are you a high-octane, energizing leader with big ideas and the skills to back them up? Do you help shape the hearts and minds of those you lead? In short, are you a Catalyst leader? The reality is that most of us want to be good leaders, but we’re not sure how to build those elements in a way that will deliver the most impact in our leadership.  The Catalyst Leader lays out the key elements and defines what it means to be a Catalyst and reveals the path for developing these elements in your own leadership skill set.

Erich’s note: Brad leads and directs a movement of young leaders called CatalystI’ve had the privilege of attending several Catalyst Conference’s (if you haven’t been to one you should make plans to attend one soon)  I’m looking forward to seeing what all I can learn and apply from this book.  A DVD-Based Study Kit is also available (looks like a great resource to take your team through).

Your turn… What are you currently reading?

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