“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”

John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

 

My brain injury changed me in some profound ways. It is crazy to me I am writing a blog post about book recommendations considering how much I disliked both reading and writing just a few short years ago. And to think I am working on a book is even crazier. 

My obsession with reading started after I went to a conference in Dallas, TX towards the end of 2013. God spoke to me at that conference and I came back from there a different person. I was hungry for everything related to Jesus and the gospel. I realized though I had been a Christian for as long as I could remember, I was following what was called the "inverted gospel." I claimed to be following Jesus, when in all actuality I just wanted Jesus to follow me.

In my search for the truth, I started reading book after book. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the God and the gospel that I had failed to fully recognize up to this point in my life. I am still always immersed in a book.Here are ten that I believe were instrumental in my discovery of what it means to follow Jesus.  They are books that helped me find and are helping me live my "new normal."

 

The Christian Atheist: Believing in God But Living as If He Doesn't Exist by Craig Groeschel

“The more I looked, the more I found Christian Atheists everywhere.” Former Christian Atheist Craig Groeschel knows his subject all too well. After over a decade of successful ministry, he had to make a painful self admission: although he believed in God, he was leading his church like God didn’t exist. To Christians and non-Christians alike, to the churched and the unchurched, the journey leading up to Groeschel’s admission and the journey that follows—from his family and his upbringing to the lackluster and even diametrically opposed expressions of faith he encountered—will look and sound like the story of their own lives. Now the founding and senior pastor of the multicampus, pace-setting LiveChurch.tv, Groeschel personal journey toward a more authentic God-honoring life is more relevant than ever. Christians and Christian Atheists everywhere will be nodding their heads as they are challenged to take their own honest moment and ask the question: am I putting my whole faith in God but still living as if everything was up to me?

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

What is Jesus worth to you?

It's easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said his followers would actually live, what their new lifestyle would actually look like. They would, he said, leave behind security, money, convenience, even family for him. They would abandon everything for the gospel. They would take up their crosses daily...

But who do you know who lives like that? Do you?

In Radical, David Platt challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. He shows what Jesus actually said about being his disciple--then invites you to believe and obey what you have heard. And he tells the dramatic story of what is happening as a "successful" suburban church decides to get serious about the gospel according to Jesus.

Finally, he urges you to join in The Radical Experiment--a one-year journey in authentic discipleship that will transform how you live in a world that desperately needs the Good News Jesus came to bring.

https://www.amazon.com/Not-Fan-Becoming-Completely-Committed/dp/0310331935/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1487173959&sr=8-2&keywords=not+a+fan

Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus by Kyle Idleman

Pastor Kyle Idleman doesn’t just want to be a fan of Jesus, he wants to full heartedly commit to him and be a follower of Jesus. But how can you make the leap from fan to follower? In Not a Fan Idleman uses biblical examples to show how the people who met Jesus also had to decide if they were fans or followers, and what it meant for them to then become followers. Being a follower doesn’t mean that you go to church every week, that you slap a Jesus fish on the back of your car, and that you give to charity. That’s what a fan does. What a follower of Jesus does, Idleman observes, is die to themselves each and every moment of the day because “you can’t say yes to following Jesus unless you say no to living for yourself.” In this three part book Idleman helps you to discover whether you are a fan or a follower, how to recognize the invitation Jesus has given, and what following Jesus looks like in your daily life. With humor and real life examples to draw you closer to Jesus, Kyle Idleman compels each and every one of us to Not Be A Fan

https://www.amazon.com/Unreasonable-Hope-Finding-Brings-Purpose/dp/0718038347/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487174009&sr=8-1&keywords=unreasonable+hope

Unreasonable Hope: Finding Faith in the God Who Brings Purpose to Your Pain by Chad Veach

“Where was God when ____? How could God allow ____? Why?”

These are the questions that flood our hearts and minds when the unimaginable happens. When things go horribly wrong and the world seems to be unraveling, how do you believe in God’s goodness? How do you cling to hope?

Chad Veach directs readers away from clichéd Sunday school answers that fail to offer real comfort or provide faith-building insights. Instead, he draws from God’s promises in the Bible and from the story of his own daughter’s diagnosis of a devastating and debilitating disease to reveal simple, purposeful steps for dealing with pain. Resting in God’s love, remembering his past faithfulness, and realizing the distinction between having faith and clinging to hope are just some of these steps.

Veach reminds us that because we know who God is, we know there is hope.

https://www.amazon.com/Do-Over-Today-First-Career/dp/0143109693/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487174042&sr=8-1&keywords=do+over

Do Over: Make Today the First Day of Your New Career by Jon Acuff

From the New York Times-bestselling author of Quitter and Start comes the definitive guide to getting your dream job.

When you don't like your job, Sunday isn't really a weekend day. It's just pre-Monday. But what if you could call a Do Over and actually look forward to Monday?

Starting on the first day you got paid to scoop ice cream or restock shelves, you’ve had the chance to develop the four elements all great careers have in common: relationships, skills, character, and hustle. You already have each of those, to one degree or another.

Now it’s time to amplify them and apply them in a new way, so you can call a Do Over on your career, at any age. You’ll need a Do Over because you’ll eventually face at least one of these major transitions:

   •  You’ll hit a Career Ceiling and get stuck, requiring sharp skills to free yourself. 
   •  You’ll experience a Career Bump and unexpectedly lose your job, requiring strong relationships to survive. 
   •  You’ll make a Career Jump to a new role, requiring solid character to push through uncertainty and chaos. 
   •  You’ll get a surprise Career Opportunity, requiring dedicated hustle to take advantage of it. 

Jon Acuff’s unique approach will give you the resources to reinvent your work, get unstuck, and get the job you’ve always wanted!
 

https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-God-Reversing-Tragic-Neglect/dp/1434767957/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487174081&sr=8-1&keywords=forgotten+god

Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan

In the name of the Father, the Son, and ... the Holy Spirit. We pray in the name of all three, but how often do we live with an awareness of only the first two? As Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit—the Helper—so that we could be true and living witnesses for Christ. Unfortunately, today's church has admired the gift but neglected to open it.

Breakthrough author Francis Chan rips away paper and bows to get at the true source of the church's power—the Holy Spirit. Chan contends that we've ignored the Spirit for far too long, and we are reaping the disastrous results. Thorough scriptural support and compelling narrative form Chan's invitation to stop and remember the One we've forgotten, the Spirit of the living God.

Jesus Swagger: Break Free from Poser Christianity by Jarrid Wilson

Stop being a poser. Start being a Christian.

Is your faith for real? How about your walk?

If everyone who claimed to love Jesus actually did, this world would be pretty close to paradise. Yet we live in a time when being a poser is not only easy, it’s rewarded—especially where Jesus is concerned.

But claiming to love Jesus without following him is bogus, fraudulent, and—frankly—it’s not you. God has called you to be set apart, to live authentically, to walk a genuine Jesus Swagger. He wants followers, not pretenders.

From Christian blogger Jarrid Wilson, Jesus Swagger is about calling out the phony, showing the pretender the door, and letting Jesus in instead. If you are suspicious of your own motivations, your own talk, or even your own Christianity, it’s time to be honest, come clean, and get real. It’s time to take the Jesus Swagger litmus test and start walking the walk.

Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love by Katherine and Jay Wolf

When all seems lost, where can hope be found?

Katherine and Jay married right after college and sought adventure far from home in Los Angeles, CA. As they pursued their dreams, they planted their lives in the city and in their church community. Their son, James, came along unexpectedly in the fall of 2007, and just 6 months later, everything changed in a moment for this young family.

On April 21, 2008, as James slept in the other room, Katherine collapsed, suffering a massive brain stem stroke without warning. Miraculously, Jay came home in time and called for help. Katherine was immediately rushed into micro-brain surgery, though her chance of survival was slim. As the sun rose the next morning, the surgeon proclaimed that Katherine had survived the removal of part of her brain, though her future recovery was completely uncertain. Yet in that moment, there was a spark of hope. Through 40 days on life support in the ICU and nearly 2 years in full-time brain rehab, that spark of hope was fanned into flame.

Defying every prognosis, with grit and grace, Katherine and Jay, side by side, struggled to regain a life for Katherine as she re-learned to talk and eat and walk. Returning home with a severely disabled body but a completely renewed purpose, they committed to celebrate this gift of a second chanceby embracing life fully, even though that life looked very different than they could have ever imagined. In the midst of continuing hardships and struggles, both in body and mind, Katherine and Jay found what we all long to find...hope, hope that heals the most broken place, our souls.

An excruciating yet beautiful road to recovery has led the Wolf family to their new normal, in which almost every moment of life is marked with the scars of that fateful April day in 2008. Now, eight years later, Katherine and Jay are stewarding their story of suffering, restoration, and Christ-centered hope in this broken world through their ministry Hope Heals.

All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life by Mark Batterson

The Gospel costs nothing.  You can’t earn it or buy it.  It can only be received as a free gift compliments of God’s grace.  It doesn’t cost anything, but it demands everything.  It demands that we go “all in,” a term that simply means placing all that you have into God’s hands.  Pushing it all in.   And that’s where we get stuck—spiritual no man's land.  We’re afraid that if we go all in that we might miss out on what this life has to offer.  It’s not true.  The only thing you’ll miss out on is everything God has to offer.  And the good news is this: if you don't hold out on God, God won't hold out on you.  Readers will find Batterson’s writing filled with his customary vivid, contemporary illustrations as well as biblical characters like Shamgar and Elisha and Jonathan and . . . Judas.

No one has ever sacrificed anything for God.  If you always get back more than you gave up, have you sacrificed anything at all?  The eternal reward always outweighs the temporal sacrifice.  At the end of the day, our greatest regret will be whatever we didn’t give back to God. What we didn’t push back across the table to Him.  Eternity will reveal that holding out is losing out.

The message of All In is simple: if Jesus is not Lord of all then Jesus is not Lord at all.  It’s all or nothing. It’s now or never.   Kneeling at the foot of cross of Christ and surrendering to His Lordship is a radical act of dethroning yourself and enthroning Christ as King.  It’s also an act of disowning yourself.  Nothing belongs to you. Not even you.   

Batterson writes, for many years, I thought I was following Jesus.  I wasn’t.  I had invited Jesus to follow me.  I call it inverted Christianity.  And it’s a subtle form of selfishness that masquerades as spirituality.  That’s when I sold out and bought in.  When did we start believing that the gospel is an insurance plan?  It’s a daring plan.  Jesus did not die just to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous.”

Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace

Written by an L. A. County homicide detective and former atheist, Cold-Case Christianity examines the claims of the New Testament using the skills and strategies of a hard-to-convince criminal investigator.

Christianity could be defined as a “cold case”: it makes a claim about an event from the distant past for which there is little forensic evidence. In Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace uses his nationally recognized skills as a homicide detective to look at the evidence and eyewitnesses behind Christian beliefs. Including gripping stories from his career and the visual techniques he developed in the courtroom, Wallace uses illustration to examine the powerful evidence that validates the claims of Christianity.

A unique apologetic that speaks to readers’ intense interest in detective stories, Cold-Case Christianity inspires readers to have confidence in Christ as it prepares them to articulate the case for Christianity.

If you have any recommendations for me or anyone else, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

*** On  jeffhuxford.com, you can find a more comprehensive book list on the Books I Wish I Wrote page.

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