I have always loved a good book, and this summer I read several. But, even if you are not an avid reader of literature, I want you to read this blog post to the end. Or, if necessary, skip to the end because that last paragraph is for everyone!

Before I went on vacation, I wrote a blog about taking a break and my desire to read good books during my rest. Several readers used the comment section to give me book ideas, and I’m glad I took their suggestions. Each book I read took me down a new road with new ideas.

I spent most of my summer writing a Bible study and the Advent book for our ministry. It might seem strange to say, but I needed a break from the Bible. Sometimes it is good to step into the world and compare the world’s thinking to God’s.

When Daniel was taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar, he and his friends were exposed to new foods, new literature, and new rules. The exposure didn’t hurt them; it helped. In Daniel 1:17, the Bible says: “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.” Daniel and his friends were exposed to Babylon’s ideas but viewed that thinking through the truth of God’s word and were stronger for it. I think that is what Jesus meant when he said to be in the world but not of it (John 17:14–15). How can we reach others if we can’t find them and know them?

So, I read a few books that were outside my normal choices, and I’m so glad that I did. Here were my favorites:

  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio. The reader said her grandson, an avid reader, had recommended it to her. That sparked my curiosity, so I googled the title and, after reading about the book, bought it. This book made me want to teach junior high English classes. In fact, I don’t think any child should be allowed to enter high school without reading this book first! Everyone of any age should read this book and allow it to be a mirror for their lives. It isn’t Scripture, but it contains a lot of truth about human nature and the goodness and lack of goodness that exist in every person God has created. Wonder will probably make you a more complete, grateful, and compassionate person if you read it. How is that for a challenge?
  • The Prayer Box and Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. These are Christian novels by a talented author, and both were great reads. In fact, I have an entire series I am currently reading by Wingate. Each of these books was well-written and contained great stories about the power of God and his constant support in our lives.
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Two readers raved over this book, and two chapters into it I wondered why. Seven chapters into it, I was raving too. All of you know someone who is an Ove, but you may not know how important it is to appreciate him or her. This book has some language I usually don’t read, but those words were necessary to knowing Ove—and that’s the point of the book. (Or one of the points.) I hope to be a better, more patient person with the “Oves” God brings into my life. In many ways, I hope I learn to be a Christ-led, Spirit-filled Ove myself. Just remember, if you buy the book, keep reading even when you don’t want to.
  • When God Doesn’t Fix It by Laura Story (with Jennifer Schuchmann). Laura Story is the singer/songwriter best known for her song Blessings. Years ago, I wrote about that song. The first time I heard it, I knew the lyrics were borne from a deep knowledge of God. I am currently reading this book, and it is excellent, especially for the tougher times of life. Story’s journey to a deep knowledge of God helps us know him better as well.

Now, the paragraph for all of you who don’t like to read. Read anyway! There is only one Book that is completely true, completely good, and completely perfect. The Bible is God’s word and nothing compares. But, God has not stopped inspiring his people. God wants to inspire you, and, like Daniel, we can learn a lot from “all kinds of literature and learning.” View the world and great books through the truth of Scripture, and listen for the perspective of God’s Holy Spirit as you read. Titus 3:14 says, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.” Good books, when read through the lens of the Great Book, can help us learn and become more productive for God. My thanks to all of you for your great recommendations. I listened to your suggestions, read, and grew a little more with each book. Thank you for sharing what God has taught you.


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