Five books that every new, or renewed, follower of Jesus should read

Recently, I took up the challenge of considering the top five books that I would recommend for new, and renewed, followers of Jesus. If you’ve recently begun to follow Jesus, or are coming back to him, where do you start? What are the best books to get you “up-and-running” and heading in a solid, well-rounded direction? Here are my suggestions.  

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Prayers answered by crosses by John Newton

On Sunday, January 26th, I preached a sermon on Mark 4:35-41 (“The Lord of the Storm”) and discussed, in part, the role of life’s storms as instruments in the hands of God. During my preparation I came across the poem below by John Newton (most famously known for writing Amazing Grace) called Prayers Answered by Crosses. What he calls “crosses” we'd also call storms, suffering or difficulty. If you’re currently in the middle of a storm or you’re praying to know God more deeply, you should read this and take heart. In God’s hands, no storm is in vain.

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Simply to say prayers is not to pray

I am devoting a significant portion of my allotted reading this year to CS Lewis. You may have noticed an inordinate number of references and quotes by Lewis, from me, over the last 12 months and that is why. Though not a theologian, he was a brilliant thinker and a genius at taking profound truths and (literally) making them accessible to children. Like us, he too lived in a world of war, urbanization, increasing secularization and unbelief (popular and academic) in regards to the truthfulness of Christianity. Though imperfect, and oddly eccentric, we still have much to learn from him. Most recently I completed reading The World's Last Night and Other Essays, one of which was on the Efficacy of Prayer. Here's a sample:

“Simply to say prayers is not to pray; otherwise a team of properly trained parrots would serve as well as men....The very question “Does prayer work?” puts us in the wrong frame of mind from the outset. “Work”: as if it were magic, or a machine - something that functions automatically. Prayer is either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person. Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine.”

An opportunity to become a disciple-making-disciple (and be trained to plant a church)

This fall Downtown Cornerstone Church, which gathers in downtown Seattle, is rolling out two discipleship training tracks: a 1-Year Gospel Leader track and a 2-Year Pastor/Church Planter Residency. Each track leverages a mixture of BILD, Porterbrook and other resources to create a world-class, yet very local, training environment for making disciple-making-disciples. This is a great opportunity to be further equipped, whether you hope to go deeper in your relationship with Jesus, desire to grow as a disciple-maker and/or be trained as a church planter. For more information, track descriptions, frequently-asked-questions and to enroll, go here. 

One idea to kick-start your prayer life

Everyone needs to reinvigorate their prayer life from time to time. When I sense a need for a fresh injection of vigor into my ongoing conversation with God, I find the most helpful practice is to revisit the names, characteristics, and attributes of the One to whom I am praying. There is a reason that Jesus begins his famous prayer with the phrase "Our Father". It is deceivingly easy to subtly slip into focusing more on what we are praying about than who we are praying to. When my prayer life wains, it is often because I have become more enamored with the results of prayer rather than the Receiver of my prayers. There is a selfish inertia within our souls that wants to make our prayers about us. Its no wonder we so often struggle with prayer. 

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