Saturday, January 3, 2015

10 Christian Books That Have Influenced and Blessed Me

A little while ago (longer than I care to admit) the nice librarian at our church asked me if I would kindly provide her with a list of what I considered to be my own "Top 10" Christian books (excluding the Bible of course).  What she was asking for was a list of the 10 books which have most influenced me as a Christian and which, by extension, I would probably recommend to others.

Her intention was to ask several people and create a "Top 10" shelf in our church library with books that several people consider to be "highly recommended."  I thought it was a great idea.
But as I pondered her request, my thoughts started getting tangled like a string of hastily stored Christmas lights.  Maybe I'm overthinking it.  But here is what I'm struggling with:
1)  How do I know which books have actually influenced me the most?  The ones I THINK have been most helpful might not in fact be the ones that have really been most useful to my progress (or lack thereof) as a Christian.  It's like asking "Which 10 meals in your life most nourished you?"  I haven't got a clue.  But I'm pretty sure that some which I enjoyed the most weren't necessarily the healthiest.
2)  But secondly, and even maybe more importantly, is the issue of pride.  When providing a list of my top 10 books, how do I avoid the temptation to merely list books which I  think I "should" consider to be favorites.  Maybe that sounds weird.  But readers are a funny lot.  And we, to our shame, often make rash judgments about others based upon what they have read or are reading.  It's wrong.  I'm not proud of it.  I'm just giving you the truth.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Prospering Christian

According to Psalm 1, the "blessed" man is the one who rejects the counsel of those who are opposed to God's Law, and rather delights himself in thinking about His commands day and night.

Of such a one, the Psalmist says confidently, "whatever he does shall prosper (Psalm 1:3)."

This sounds wonderful.  This sounds like the way things should be.  It appears that the image set before us is that of a Prospering Christian, obedient to the Lord and successful in life.  Sign me up.

But something about this bothers us. 

We secretly, but not vocally, wonder about the multitude of examples both in Scripture and in our own experience that seem to prove the exact opposite.

Whatever he does shall prosper?  Really?

Do Godly Christian men and women never experience any sort of failure or loss?  Of course they do.  To suggest otherwise would appear to be a denial of reality itself.  Faithful, God-fearing Christian men and women experience all sorts of disappointments every day:  loss of health, loss of relationships, loss of business, loss of jobs, loss of friends, loss of possessions, loss of respect. 

Whatever he does shall prosper?  Can that possibly be right?

To escape the conclusion that the Psalmist is exaggerating (or worse, simply wrong), two possible alternative interpretations may suggest themselves to our mind.

1)  Maybe the Psalmist simply means "spiritual" prosperity.  Surely the soul of the obedient believer prospers, even during adverse circumstances.  But something about that seems a bit dishonest with the text.  The Psalmist doesn't say "spiritually prosper" but rather seems to be much more inclusive with the words "whatever he does."