OK, I admit it.
I love to read. There…it is out now (deep breath). And in a world where there is rapid and consistent change, I embrace more strongly than ever that leaders are readers and readers are leaders. Reading allows me to stay in contact with new ideas and even more importantly, to better connect with people who may have thought processes outside of my own.
If I am to impact the ideas and ideals of others, it is important that I “cast my net wide” through reading the opinions and conclusions of others.
I did not get as many books and articles read in 2014 as I would have liked, but I did get through a good many that really impacted my thought patterns, and in turn, produced an overflow of new responses and actions in my own life.
Below is a collection of four good reads from 2014 that caused me to pause, reflect, ponder conclusions, and set new mindsets. They are not from one distinct genre or category as I tried to offer more of a “buffet of books” from my own reading experiences over this past year.
And so here we go (drumroll please):
A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester
I admit I was not looking for a book about eating or about meals. But the title caught my eye and I was glad (for once) about an impulse purchase that I made. According to the title, A Meal With Jesus is about “discovering grace, community and mission around the table.”
I have to say that after reading this most intriguing book, I had several paradigms radically changed about the higher purpose of eating meals together. Here are a few impacting quotes:
The hospitality of God embodied in the table fellowship of Jesus is a celebration and sign of his grace and generosity. And we’re to imitate that generosity.
And here is another great thought:
The Christian community is the beginning and sign of God’s coming world—and no more so than when we eat together. Our meals are a foretaste of the future messianic banquet. Our meals reveal the identity of Jesus. Our meals are a proclamation and demonstration of God’s good news.
A Meal With Jesus is really just a well-written theology of meals and why sharing a meal is important in our missional view of impacting others with the Gospel. My wife embodies this in her own giftedness and reading this gave me a new appreciation for how she makes our home a haven for others through the simple gift of a meal.
Gods at War: Defeating the Idols That Battle for Your Heart by Kyle Idleman
Warning: the reading of this book will most likely reveal idols that have set up their kingdom on the throne of your heart. Repentance required.
I am just finishing this book at the recommendation of a student of mine and it is a keeper. I needed it. I did not necessarily like how it made me feel…but I loved the freedom that it offered to me. Jesus is better.
In this well-crafted text, Idleman gives some interesting insights into what idols look like, how they function, and why they want the throne of my heart. Kyle tackles three temples of our heart:
- the temple of pleasure (food, sex, entertainment)
- the temple of power (success, money, entertainment)
- the temple of love (romance, family, me)
Idleman works through each of these areas with great clarity and it helped me come to grips with idols in my own life that were robbing me of joy and satisfaction that I had been seeking. This book will most assuredly impact your view of God.
Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
Without a doubt, this book has done more to reshape my misconceptions about how to determine the will of God than any other book I have read. I came away with a new-found “Eureka, I get it!” that I have now had the opportunity to share with many others.
Unfortunately, too many have been taught how to seek God’s will in a way that goes something like this: In the field of life, God’s will is like one blade of grass. Look carefully for it, because if you miss it, your life will careen into confusion and disappointment for the rest of your days. Or something like that.
And so we live our life in fear and falling into what I call “analysis paralysis.” Not a fun state.
DeYoung says this…
God is not a Magic 8-Ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him. We know God has a plan for our lives. That’s wonderful. The problem is we think He’s going to tell us the wonderful plan before it unfolds. We feel like we can know–and need to know–what God wants every step of the way. But such preoccupation with finding God’s will, as well-intentioned as the desire may be, is more folly than freedom.
So the end of the matter is this: Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God.
You might say, “But what about…? That just doesn’t…! What if…?” I know, I had those thoughts too. Please, just order yourself a copy and read it. It will change your thinking.
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni
I became a Lencioni fan when I first read his Death by Meeting fable.
And nowI have completed The Advantage. I loved this book because it helped me understand that though there are many things I can work on, if I am not working on improving organizational health, I am working on the wrong thing.
So how does an organization go about figuring out why it exists? It starts by asking the question, ‘How do we contribute to a better world?’
Organizational health is an oft-overlooked characteristic of a company because it feels too ethereal and out of reach. But in reality, it is one that can turn a mediocre company into a successful one.
And don’t think this is only for you if you work in the business sector. Rather, it is for anyone who wants to get an idea of the bigger picture of what makes for health in an organization. Every company, every corporation, every church, every school needs to be healthy or it may just limp along or may even cease to exist.
Lencioni speaks about six questions that every team should work through to good health:
- Why do we exist?
- How do we behave?
- What do we do?
- How will we succeed?
- What is most important…right now?
- Who must do what?
Creating and establishing clarity. Communicating that clarity. Structure that reinforces that clarity. That is a decided advantage that everyone needs where they operate.
These are four great books that will stretch you, grow you, and expand your horizons and influence. What are you waiting for?