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I have always enjoyed reading and I like a wide variety of genres. I tend to always have a novel on the go plus a Christian living/theology related book. It is important to be reading things that challenge me and help me grow spiritually, as well as books that will make me laugh and use my imagination. If you know me at all, I also love to give out book recommendations. This isn’t because I think my book choices are always the greatest, but simply because some books just strike a chord with me and help me gain a new perspective and understanding of a topic. It is my hope that I can pass on that same knowledge and help someone else. That being said, I have two book recommendations for you this month!

A Place to Belong: Learning to Love the Local Church By Megan Hill. 

I had this book sitting in my Amazon cart for quite a while before taking the plunge and to buy it. It is a super helpful read about what a biblical church should be and do. The first chapter reminds us of who we are to Christ, namely, his Beloved people. It was the warm hug that I needed the morning I cracked this book open! The author reminds us that if we are in Christ, we are all chosen and have the same testimony - We were once wretched sinners who were bought and redeemed by Christ’s saving work on the cross. I thought this was a great topic to touch on. So often, we view other people’s testimonies as “cooler” than ours. We see different depths of depravity and view other people’s redemption stories as better than ours- perhaps they lived a wild life of drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, illegal activity, or just plain outright hate for God. Some of us don't have that background and feel like our stories are so dull. Whatever the story was doesn’t matter when I realize that God saved that person the same way he saved me. He died on the cross and rose again, paying the ransom for my life of disobedience and making me a new creation. 

The author moves on and touches on why we worship together, why we need a Shepherd or Overseer or Elder to guide and direct us, and why membership and belonging to a local church is important. She walks through these topics and offers lots of biblically rich pieces of evidence. To me, it was a great reminder of how God has laid out everything perfectly in his Word. He hasn’t thrown us together to figure it all out on our own. He has a plan for all things. We need to be in his Word and living by his Word, using it as our guidebook. 

I was reminded over and over again of the beauty of the church. We are a small gathering of a bigger community, with hardly anything in common except for Jesus. We come with different God-given gifts and talents to serve His Church, for His glory. 

Why would I recommend this book? It was a cohesive, biblical overview of the purpose of the church. I think there are so many ideas out there today of what church *should* look like, but the truth is, God has laid out in his Word what it should look like. We don’t need to be looking at the church down the street and copying what they are doing because it seems to attract people. We need to be doing precisely what God has called us to be and to do. 

I think there are so many ideas out there today of what church *should* look like, but the truth is, God has laid out in his Word what it should look like.

Hoping for Happiness: Turning life’s most Elusive Feeling into Lasting Reality By Barnabas Piper

Barnabas Piper is the co-host of a Podcast that Nathan and I enjoy listening to. I had heard him promote this new book so much that I fell for his propaganda and bought it. I’m not ashamed.
This book was a quick read but packed full of so much goodness. I almost felt like a weight had been removed from my shoulders after reading it. We all seek happiness, yet it doesn’t seem to last very long when we find it. We have grand expectations for what happiness should look like or how it should be attained. We want temporal things to grant us lasting happiness. Piper helps point the reader to what biblical happiness is and how it is defined in God’s Word. Piper uses the book of Ecclesiastes to back up his thoughts. The famous words of King Solomon, Vanity of Vanities, Everything is Vanity - outside of God. He begins by laying out what, statistically speaking, are the “hooks” people use to hang their happiness on- work, love and marriage, friendship, church and self. He discusses that while all of these things are good gifts, given by a good God, and are good hooks for the right things, they definitely cannot hold the weight of our hopes for total happiness. 

The chapter in this book that stood out to me the most was his chapter titled “Evangeliguilt.” This chapter touches on how to enjoy the created things of this world while keeping our Godly character in check. God has blessed us with stuff in this world. We have good food, good friends, technology, sports, books, movies, laughter, money, etc. I know I am not alone when I say that there are times when I feel like I shouldn’t be enjoying some of these things as much as I am. The truth is that God has given us good gifts, and it would be sinful to not take and enjoy these good gifts. The problem comes when we allow the gift to take the place of God. When the pit in our soul longs for created things to fill the void that only God can fill. So go ahead and use your skills to sew, cook, garden, fix cars, tinker, etc. Enjoy laughing with your friends, or watching movies, exercising, etc., but know that while all of these things are good things, they cannot take God’s rightful place in our hearts. They will not give us the lasting happiness that we are seeking. We also need to be aware that there are forms of all of these things that do not glorify God in the slightest.

The truth is that God has given us good gifts, and it would be sinful to not take and enjoy these good gifts. The problem comes when we allow the gift to take the place of God.

While enjoying a movie is great, some movies praise all things that God hates. Jokes and laughter are great when the object of that joke and laughter are not directed toward someone, or sinful in nature. Exercising is a good thing, but it is of no spiritual use when it is an addiction and takes over our lives. So we need to use discretion, asking for Wisdom as we maneuver through life. As Christians, our citizenship is in heaven, but we have been placed on this earth at this time. Look around you! God has created some pretty incredible things, and he intends for us to enjoy them, praising him and giving him thanks. 

Piper concludes his book with 5 easy way to enjoy this life that God has given us in a glorifying way:

  1. Be grateful for everything.
  2. Appreciate good gifts as God intended.
  3. Live the life that God has given you to the fullest.
  4. Repent often and eagerly.
  5. Fear God and keep his commandments.

So why do I think people should read this book? I think happiness is something that everyone everywhere is searching for, and everyone has a different definition of what it looks like. This book was a great way to remind me where my happiness comes from and to whom it should be centred on. It gave me stepping stones for self-examination; what areas of my life do I enjoy more than time spent with God? Am I truly thankful for things, or do I delve in, hoping that it will bring me some sort of satisfaction? Going into this book, I already understood the concept of happiness; I knew it came from God, I knew that life is a gift from him, etc. However, to see something written down and have it cohesively said helped me put the pieces that were all jumbled into my brain together, and it gave me a more precise picture of true happiness.