Let’s be real.
We all want to lead satisfied, fulfilled lives. We want family relationships that are healthy and that work well. We want to earn money and manage it God’s way. We want to become who God made us to be and do what He put us here to do, right?
So, we read God’s Word—the Bible—and seek to apply what we learn. We read verses like Ephesians 5:33 that says “a wife should respect her husband” and think to ourselves that’s just great. My husband pushes my buttons like crazy. How do I respect him? Or, we read in John 15:13 that Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his brothers.”
Figuring out how to apply God’s Word to your life doesn’t have to be hard. When you don’t understand what a Bible verse means—or how to put it into practice in your life—take time to pray. Ask God to give you understanding. He will.
He may bless you with immediate understanding.
He may give you understanding through a sermon or a song or through something someone else says, particularly in a Bible Study group, Sunday School class or small group.
God may also show you what living out a Bible verse looks like through books written by Christian authors who have already wrestled with the same questions you are wrestling with and have taken time to write down what God showed them. You can benefit from their wisdom. Here is a list of the books that God brought to my attention at exactly the right moments in my life:
1. Building a Great Marriage by Anne Ortlund
Maybe your parents modeled a loving, Christian marriage for you, so you got married knowing some good daily habits.
As a newly married young woman, I knew I wanted to build a Christian home and family. I just didn’t know how because I didn’t grow up in a Christian home.
Wandering around in a bookstore one day, God led me to buy this book. I read it several times over the next few months, trying to understand the principles. I began applying what I learned, such as don’t make big commitments during the first year of marriage. Spend time with each other. Get used to being married.
I also learned to think two. We were no longer one. We became two the day we got married. I liked that idea.
The author devoted an entire chapter to the importance of husband and wife each having a quiet time with God each day. I was fascinated by that idea. I did not know how to do that so I read and re-read that chapter several times.
The chapter on dealing with conflict (which is inevitable in marriage) took me many years to fully understand and implement.
Have many Christian authors written helpful books about marriage? You bet.
Anne Ortlund wrote this book in such a way that as I read it, I felt as though I was sitting at her kitchen table, listening to an older, more experienced Christian woman share the wisdom learned from a lifetime of walking with God. I needed all the wisdom I could get.
2. The Family Blessing by Rolf Garborg
Do you want your children to feel loved and valued for who they are? By you and by the God Who made them? This book can help make that happen.
Using the ancient biblical custom of speaking a blessing over people in the Name of the Lord, you can make God more real to your kiddos, shape their character development, and help them feel secure and confident. The author (a former missionary) explains the entire concept and all the benefits of a daily, spoken blessing and includes a number of blessings from the Bible and from various Christian traditions.
After reading this book, I chose to speak the blessing over my children—and now grandchildren—from Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
Intrigued by the idea of speaking a blessing over our children, my husband even chose to write his own blessing, from his heart: I pray in the Name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, and ask that you grow to be big and strong, that you’ll be brave and courageous, that you’ll always look after old people and little kids, that you’ll grow to be smart but that you’ll always keep learning. Most of all, I pray that you’ll walk in the way of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
In an ever-changing world, speaking God’s blessing over our kids has helped them to grow up knowing God is always with them and loves them. The family blessing is definitely a time-honored practice worth doing.
3. The 15 Minute Organizer by Emilie Barnes
Maybe your home is always clean, your meals Instagram worthy, and your holidays happen without stress. Yeah, right.
As a busy mom, I found myself discouraged when I couldn’t get tasks accomplished that I knew I needed to do. God brought this book to me at just the right time.
Emilie Barnes helped me look at my time in a different way, such as breaking large tasks down into small steps. She showed me how to plan my family’s meals for the week so I could buy groceries intentionally. And, she explained the importance of planning ahead in every area of life to make life easier. (Notice I didn’t say easy.)
As an organizational expert, author, and speaker, this author offers useful, actionable advice in this book, as well as in her other numerous books.
Who doesn’t need useful, actionable advice?
4. Dare to Discipline by Dr. James Dobson
What’s your long-term goal in parenting? What kind of people do you want your kids to become?
Prolific author and psychologist Dr. James Dobson advises parents to have the courage to take their God-given job of parenting seriously by both showing unconditional love for their children and by giving their kids consequences when they choose to disobey. Dr. Dobson makes a clear distinction between the foolishness of youth (such as accidentally knocking over a lamp) and open rebelliousness that calls for actual discipline. From Dr. Dobson’s many years of counseling families, he provides real-life examples of what works—and what doesn’t—in raising kids.
Millions of parents have used this practical, reassuring book to raise their kids into good and decent people. I am so thankful that when I heard other moms saying the principles in this book really work that I decided to buy, read, and try out what I learned.
5. Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King
Do you try to figure out how to please God? You know, how to do something good?
That’s what I used to do, too. Then, I read this book.
As a pastor at a small church in Canada, Henry Blackaby was trying to get a Bible Study going at a nearby university. All attempts failed until one day, Blackaby prayed, asking God where He was already at work and how he (Blackaby) could join God in what He was already doing. God led Blackaby and people in his church to a group of college students who were hungry to know God and a thriving Bible Study began. Blackaby realized his prior approach had been wrong. Instead of starting something and asking God to bless it, Blackaby began asking God: Father, where are You at work in the world around me and how do you want me to join You in what You are already doing? Such a simple but profound change.
When I read Experiencing God, I began praying that same prayer. God has given—and continues to give—me opportunities only He could have orchestrated. Opportunities to help people. Opportunities to influence people to walk with God. Opportunities to teach and to serve.
If you are ready for the next step with God, this book is a must-read.
6. Love is a Decision by Gary Smalley and John Trent
Did you get married because you were in love? And you thought you’d found the perfect person? Well, what happens when you feel angry, hurt, tired, sick, frustrated or any number of other feelings? What do you do when you don’t feel in love? Do you stay married? Or, walk away because you aren’t feeling it?
Smalley and Trent say that once the feeling of being in love and your feet not quite touching the floor fades, you must choose to love your spouse every day. The authors give thirteen practical, proven principles to put into practice to make your marriage thrive and last. Good marriages, they say, are no accident.
God brought this book to me at just the time I desperately needed it. What I learned as I pored over chapter after chapter saved my marriage and family.
7. The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman
You ever do something kind for your husband but he doesn’t seem to appreciate your effort? Like cook him a special dinner? Or, has your husband given you a good gift, which is nice, but what you really want is to go out on a date with him?
After 20 years of marriage counseling, Dr. Chapman realized that people get and give love in five basic ways: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. So, if you feel loved when your husband spends quality time with you but he gives you a gift for your anniversary and thinks he’s shown you love, you may not be very happy. Kinda like trying to communicate with someone who speaks only Chinese—you could both end up frustrated.
Dr. Chapman details in this easy-to-read book each of the five love languages and how to speak them effectively with the people you love. When the people living under your roof feel loved, you can resolve conflicts more easily and bring out the best in each other.
8. The Strong Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson
If you read the title of this Dr. Dobson book and are thinking to yourself that you have one of these kids, you need this book. Like yesterday.
The good news about a strong-willed child, Dr. Dobson says, is that God made him/her strong-willed for what God will use your child to accomplish for the kingdom of God in the future. Your job is to figure out how to parent your strong-willed child to be ready to be used by God—without losing your mind in the process. This book has helped millions of parents and it can help you, too.
It definitely helped me.
9. The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson
This little book became all the talk in Christian circles when it was published in 2000. Based on the story of Jabez, which is found in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, Dr. Bruce Wilkinson has helped millions of Christians understand that God wants us to live blessed lives. We just need to ask Him.
Note: Dr. Wilkinson does not say that you can pray and God will make you a millionaire. This is not a prosperity gospel kind of book.
When I read this book and began praying the prayer for God to bless me indeed and to expand my territory, I truly began seeing God’s blessings and opportunities to encourage others to grow.
Give it a try. See what God does in your life.
10. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
Did you know there is historical evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ? Or, that Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar or actually God with skin on as described in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
When his wife got saved, avowed atheist and hard-nosed journalist Lee Strobel set out to prove that Christianity is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. Instead, as he investigated the claims of Christianity, he became convinced of the truth that Jesus really is Who He says He is. Lee Strobel became not only a Christian—but one of the best-known apologists of our time. Wow! Such a God-story.
This book helped me learn useful facts. For example, the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—were written down by either eyewitnesses (Matthew and John) or by men who heard the stories of Jesus from eyewitnesses (Mark and Luke). All four gospels were recorded within 35 years of the actual events. Contrast this with historical, secular writings that scholars believe to be true, such as accounts of Alexander the Great written hundreds of years after Alexander died in 323 BC.
If you want to learn about the evidence for what we believe, then this is the book for you.
11. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
As a kid, I didn’t go to Sunday School classes or Vacation Bible School or any youth group events. I honestly didn’t know about the incredible courage many ordinary Christians like us have shown in the midst of intense persecution throughout history. That is, until I read this book.
I learned about the early Christian martyrs during the Roman Empire, the faithfulness of John Wycliffe to begin translating the Bible from Latin into English in the 1300s, the boldness of a little monk known as Martin Luther who became a giant of the faith, the passion of William Tyndale to put the entire New Testament in English in the hands of his fellow countrymen in the 1500s, the method for walking with God that our Heavenly Father showed to John Wesley, and more.
Is this book an easy read? No. Not at all.
But, as a Christian in the 21st century, you need to know that many brave believers have gone before you to ensure you could hear the good news about Jesus Christ dying on the cross for you. It is now your God-given job to pass the faith to the next generation. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs may just inspire you to do that.
12. The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey
You don’t have to live your life in debt. Maybe you already knew that. I certainly didn’t.
Listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio, I began to realize that God has a better way for handling money than simply living paycheck to paycheck, always making payments. In this book, Ramsey lays out just how to get out of debt—and never go back.
Think of all you could do IF you had no debt.
13. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Looking for a great book to read with your kids? Then read this one.
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, you will travel with two sisters and a brother from the bombing of London during World War II to an English country house and through a wardrobe into the land of Narnia. There, you’ll meet various talking animals and learn why Narnia is experiencing a continual, snow-covered winter season.
As the three children explore Narnia, they get caught up in the struggle between good and evil–between the White Witch and Aslan, the lion. As always, the struggle is real.
After reading this book to my then six-year-old son, he said: “Mom, I wish Aslan was real.”
“Oh, but he is real, buddy,” I said, and then explained who Aslan represents.
If you enjoy reading this book, you may want to read the other books in C. S. Lewis’ beloved series, The Chronicles of Narnia. We did. We read and loved them all. And, our faith grew as a result.
14. Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore
“…we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
Do you have any strongholds that you are ready to overcome? The insecurity of feeling unloved? Ongoing feelings of guilt? Unforgiveness? A sexual stronghold? Do you feel you are doing battle with the enemy of your soul? Then, this book is for you.
Prolific Bible Study author and speaker Beth Moore says in the introduction to Praying God’s Word that she’s “been educated in the power of God and His Word through the field trips” of her own “failure, weakness, and past bondage.” God showed her in her journey to wholeness (she was sexually abused as a child) to pray “Scripture to overcome strongholds.”
Exactly what is a stronghold? Basically, anything that seems bigger or more powerful than God, causing you to feel overpowered, controlled, defeated, sidelined, even mastered. And that’s what the enemy of your soul wants.
If you are ready to fight—and win—the battles going on in your mind, this book can help. Beth Moore will teach you to draw near to God daily as you learn what the Bible says about 14 common strongholds and begin the life-changing practice of incorporating God’s Word into your prayers.
Does praying God’s Word over your life work? It has for me and for many people I know.
15. For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn
So, I hate this book. Why? Because after research into how men think, this Harvard-educated author wrote this book to help women know the secret thought life of men.
Truths like: men want to be respected, while women want to be loved. What???
Also, God wired men to be extremely visual so the images of the attractive women that your man has seen will pop into his head at random times. Unasked for images. Images that your man would rather not see. What an incredible struggle the men in your life face every day, particularly as Christian men trying to honor women.
The research shared in this book totally surprised me.
I thought men and women were basically the same. That’s what our culture is telling us. But, no. Our Creator made us different. Different strengths. Different weaknesses. To work together.
I struggled with the findings of the research presented in this book. But, as I prayed through the information and talked about it with my husband and other godly men I know, I began to realize how much I really needed to understand and appreciate the God-given differences.
Maybe you’ll hate this book, too. Then, after you’ve wrestled awhile with God about all this, you might just be glad you read it.
16. The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie OMartian
Do you tend to pray like crazy in the midst of a crisis, then get a little slack about praying when the crisis passes? Yeah, I used to do that, too. Reading—and praying—through this book helped change that for me.
God showed me that I need to pray deliberately over every area of my life. My marriage. My kids. My extended family. My friends. My work. My priorities. Everything.
What’s the result?
Feeling God’s Presence. Peace. Hope. Strength. Understanding. Seeing God work, moving in wonderful ways.
Stormie OMartian says: “This book is not about living up to a standard. It’s about letting God become your standard. It’s not about trying to make something happen for yourself. It’s recognizing that you can’t make anything happen, but you can surrender your life to God and let Him make things happen. It’s not about finding ways to avoid God’s judgment and feeling like a failure if you don’t do everything perfectly. It’s about fully experiencing God’s love and letting it perfect you. It’s not about being somebody you are not. It’s about becoming who you really are. But in order to see these things happen, you have to be completely honest with yourself and with God about who you are at the moment.”
I really needed to learn to cover every part of my life in prayer. Maybe you do, too.
17. Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
Do you say yes every time you are asked to do something? Even if you don’t really want to or don’t truly have time? Do you worry that people won’t like you if you say no?
In this book, authors Cloud and Townsend teach that setting healthy boundaries—personal property lines—that define who you are and who you are not is not only okay but necessary to become who God calls us to be.
This book was hard for me to read, but was, ultimately, very freeing.
18. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Set in the time of the California gold rush, Redeeming Love tells the story of Angel, a woman who was sold into prostitution as a child. Her heart is as hard as her life. She has no family. No real friends. Men buy and sell her.
Then, one day, something happens that begins changing the course of Angel’s life.
Author Francine Rivers takes the timeless, biblical book of Hosea, sets it in California in the 1850s, and tells a timely tale of redemption that you will change you. It did me.
Caution: because human trafficking is part of the story, this book is not for children.
19. Fearless by Max Lucado
“Can one be happy and afraid at the same time? Merciful and afraid? No,” Max Lucado says. “Fear is the big bully in the high school hallway: brash, loud, and unproductive. For all the noise fear makes and room it takes, fear does little good.
Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that. People who refuse to consult or cower to their timidities did that. But fear itself? Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.
Wouldn’t it be great to walk out?”
In Fearless, author and pastor Max Lucado discusses in a conversational way some of the most common fears we face in the light of what God tells us in His Word, the Bible.
The fear of not mattering, for example.
But God says in the Bible that He loves you and can’t stop thinking about you.
“The same reason the artist loves his paintings or the boat builder loves his vessels. You are his idea,” Max Lucado says.
In fact, Ephesians 2:10 tells us: “…we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
What about the fear of violence? Of worst-case scenarios? Or of life’s final moments? Lucado addresses these and several other common fears in an easy-to-understand way that truly can help you fear less tomorrow than today, freeing you to be who God made you to be.
Reading this book helped me look at myself and at fears differently. I think it could help you, too.
20. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala
What happens when a young pastor of a broken-down, dying church in a drug-infested, dangerous part of Brooklyn cries out to God out of sheer desperation? And, the handful of people in his congregation join him?
God shows up.
“I discovered an astonishing truth: God is attracted to weakness. He can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him,” Pastor Jim Cymbala says.
In Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala tells moving true stories about what God began doing at Brooklyn Tabernacle.
Stories about drug addicts getting clean. Prostitutes being made new creations in Christ. Hopeless people meeting the source of all hope: Jesus.
If you want your faith strengthened, read this book. Just be sure to wear waterproof mascara.
21. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
As far back as I can remember, I’ve heard people talk about benefitting from the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. I’d just never taken time to read it until recently.
Boy, do I wish I read this book years ago.
I learned that “if we want to make friends, let’s put ourselves out to do things for other people–things that require time, energy, unselfishness, and thoughtfulness,” according to Dale Carnegie.
I also found out that I should not criticize people.
“Criticism is futile because it puts a man on the defensive, and usually makes him strive to justify himself,” Dale Carnegie says.
Instead of criticizing people, Carnegie encourages people to try to understand others. Try “to figure out why they do what they do.” Understanding people “breeds sympathy, tolerance, and kindness.”
Sound like the principles found in the Bible? Absolutely! This book contains numerous God references.
Dale Carnegie wrote this book in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. A time of rising unemployment. A crazy stock market. War clouds gathering halfway around the world. Plenty of reasons for people to think–and talk–only about themselves. Yet Carnegie told people to do exactly the opposite.
His advice? Become genuinely interested in others.
“…the principles taught in this book will work only when they come from the heart,” Dale Carnegie says. “I am not advocating a bag of tricks. I am talking about a new way of life.”
So that’s my list of books our gracious Heavenly Father has used–thus far–to teach me more about doing daily life with Him while I’m on this earth.
Notice I did not say in the title, opening paragraphs, at any point in the descriptions of books or here, in the conclusion, that the books on this list are books every Christian should read. You’ve probably seen some of those lists. I plan to read more of the Christian classics that I haven’t yet read. I bet you plan to, as well.
Think of the Christian classics as five star, fine dining restaurants.
The books on my list are more like your local, family-owned restaurant.
Do I recommend all these books to you? Absolutely. If you need help with marriage, parenting, money, dealing with other people, and other real-life issues, consider reading the books on this list.
Finally, I’ve provided an Amazon link for each book in case you want to buy a copy or listen through Audible. You may prefer to buy used books from Goodwill or another thrift store. I totally get that. You can also check with your local library for a print or audio edition of any book you’d like to read. And, your local church library may have these and other Christian titles to check out for free. Plus, you might be able to borrow Christian books from friends. Happy learning!
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