“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:16-17).

I can’t think of more appropriate verses to meditate on as 2024 begins. What could be a better thing to do than to let the Word of Christ stay in us and instruct us this year. Let us soak in it. Soak it in. Soak in its wisdom. With thankful hearts; singing hearts. Praising hearts. If we’re really taking it all in and letting it abide in us, we will be given over to praise and thankfulness, won’t we? Where would we be without our Savior? Thinking on that should then inspire us to continue thanking God and doing all we do in the name of the Lord Jesus. The dishes, changing diapers, changing the oil in the car, going to school, going to work, grocery shopping, worshipping, resting….

I was going through some old files the other day, and I came across the above verse as part of a letter I wrote to the prayer supporters of the pregnancy resource center where I served for eight years. Prayer warriors as we liked to call them. The letter seems fitting to include in this blog, so I have rewritten it to pertain to a new year rather than for what was happening in November that year at the PRC: 

As the old year ends, my thoughts are ambiguous. I see how God was right with me through 2023 and I’m grateful for His love, His care, His guidance, His provisions. However, I am also reminded of my flaws, all the times I neglected to do as I should have or did what I shouldn’t have.  I marvel that as I understand what those things were and confess them to my Savior and rely on Him to somehow work through the broken vessel of me—He does. I can’t even explain it. But there are those moments when I know He has used what I did, or said, or even thought, to minister to others. I find that remarkable considering that part of me always seems to be waiting for praise, yes, even accepting it, and begrudgingly giving it to God when it is actually only through Him anything has been accomplished. 

“ Without Him, we can’t accomplish anything. With Him—all things are possible. Something to hang onto courageously as we move into a new year. ”


Every one of us is needy. Not one of us is perfect. Not one of us serves God or others perfectly. Not in this life anyway. It’s just that we are called to empty ourselves (daily) of self, our neediness, our hopelessness, and recall that we are children of the Most High God whose very own Spirit dwells within us. We’re to move over and out and make room for Him. Be full of Him. That Jesus Resource has to be at the top of our list of resources no matter how chaotic or messed up or despairing our present circumstances might be. If we are neglecting the Hope within us, then we have more self-emptying to do. If we aren’t willing to bare our own secret sins to ourselves and/or as necessary to others, then the light of Jesus is not blinding us as it should so that our sight remains steadfastly on Him. If we are not able to ask for and accept help and counsel through Scripture, as well as through our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we probably aren’t serving others effectively in Jesus’ name. 

And we come back to the place of realization. “Call out to Jesus.” Our minds have a hard time remembering the believer’s circle of life, yet we experience it over and over again. The grace we receive when calling out inexplicably gives us great joy. It is actually the power of God transforming us—power passing from Him to us and from us on to others so that they see Him. Miraculously, He makes these changes in us to fit our own life’s circumstances. We don’t all wear it exactly the same way and yet it is clearly the same love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that is displayed. That of Jesus demonstrated by us. No scientific formula for any of this. Just faith in an astounding God who loved us and gave Himself for us. Without Him, we can’t accomplish anything. With Him—all things are possible. Something to hang onto courageously as we move into a new year. 

I’ve often said we live in a good time for reading books that help us to grow in Christ. Books that strengthen our faith while they take us to His word and open it with wisdom, insight, and understanding. Books that draw simply and singularly on the Word of God. So as we walk with Christ into a new year, I’m going to recommend some of these to you.  It’s a miniscule list, but these are some of the books I treasure and refer to again and again. Like hearing a wonderful sermon, only a book allows you to own the words so that you can hear its message over and over. I start this month with three favorites but will continue next month with a lengthier list. I’m hoping that you choose at least two from the total I will recommend.

Paul Miller (MDiv, Biblical Seminary) is executive director of seeJesus, a global discipling ministry and has authored several books. Miller writes in a humble, practical, and encouraging way as he shares the truth of Scripture with his readers. You will see as you read my reviews the next two months, that I like wisdom coming at me humbly with encouragement and some idea of how to use it in my everyday life. That’s how Miller’s books read for me.

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller


I might have first been attracted to this book by its subtitle. I don’t know about you, but I can get very distracted while praying. At any rate, the first reading of this book spoke to me in a way that no other book quite had before. I read it a second time and highlighted it. I reread it again and took notes on it. And I’ve gone over those notes time and time again. 

Early on, Miller addresses the fruits of a praying life. “A praying life feels like dinner with good friends. Oddly enough many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying—not on God.”

“A praying life is interconnected with all life. A praying life becomes aware of the story. We are actors in His drama, listening for our lines, quieting our hearts so we can hear the voice of the Playwright. What is God doing? (I often think I am the writer and the only main actor.)”

Here’s the reason that praying can be so difficult for us. “Our trust in ourselves and in our talents makes us structurally independent of God.” Miller quotes Anthony Bloom, a Greek Orthodox writer, “Abandon all, you will receive heaven. When you give God your life, he gives you the gift of himself.”

Miller admonishes us to “become like a little child” when we pray. Children come messy, overwhelmed and with a wandering mind. “Don’t try to get the right prayer; just tell God where you are and what’s on your mind. That’s what little children do.”

These are all excerpts from the book’s beginning. But the rest doesn’t let the reader down. From that first reading, my prayer life has developed drastically. Much was pointed out to me that I needed to change. Miller used many Scripture passages to point out what those changes needed to be. How wrong thinking and self-centered thinking on my part hindered my prayers. Miller has so much to offer and I don’t know a better book to help you understand prayer. Several years ago, I gave this book to each of my adult children for Christmas. Not one of them was disappointed in what they read, and just a few days ago, one of my daughters said that book was her favorite book that I had ever given her.

A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships by Paul E. Miller

I did review this book previously at length a couple years ago ( However, this is not another review as much as a recommendation as you plan books you wish to read in the coming year. 

“How do you love with no love in return? How do you love when no one notices or cares?” These are the kind of questions that Miller tackles in this book which is based on the Old Testament book of Ruth. I have to say that at the time I read this, I had never thought about much of the book of Ruth like it was explained by Miller. I was the poorer for it. I had not thought of love in the ways that I came to see in the book of Ruth. A love that is best learned from the love we have received from God! 

“We often get stuck on the dark side of a person,” Miller writes. “We fixate on the depravity. One of the worst effects of our fallen natures is that we read everything as fallen. We overread evil and, frankly, become judgmental. Love accepts the paradox.” What was I at the beginning? Was I worthy of God’s love? Are any of us? What if He looked at us as we look at others, deciding to withhold His love from us as we are prone to do because we don’t like what we see?

From the first, Miller introduces his readers to the Hebrew word “hesed” that is used throughout the book of Ruth to describe the love relationships we read about there. Hesed means loyal, steadfast, or faithful love based on a promise, agreement, or covenant. Sometimes the word is used of God’s covenant-love for His people and sometimes of relationships on the human level.

How different the world would be if marriage partners practiced “hesed love,” if they went into marriage committing to a relationship of “hesed love.” How different the Church would look both inside and out if its members committed to practicing “hesed love” to one another. Such an encouraging book that promises through its teaching of God’s Word to elicit change in readers who are willing to heed it. 

A Praying Church

I’ve just started reading this book. But already I have determined to get a copy for my pastor and the elders in my church and my son who is also an elder. I don’t think there is a church anywhere that couldn’t be a better praying church. That should aspire to be a better praying church.

“The feel of the prayer time is resurrection,” Miller writes. “…It’s the very breath of the church.” We must slow down and take the time to regain focus on spiritual revival rather than administration of programs and program improvements. Miller then goes on to describe daily morning prayer times with the leaders of his ministry. “[We are] constant in corporate prayer because the Jesus communities I’m in are constant in need….A Jesus community is (should be) characterized by wonder, and the conduit to that is prayer. I’ve seen what happens when the Spirit of Jesus inhabits a community—everything starts to sparkle.”

Pointing to the early New Testament Church, Miller writes, “When Luke gives us a sermon in the book of Acts we get a preacher…But when Luke describes a prayer meeting, we get the whole church” (Acts 1:14). Miller in these early chapters laments the loss of true prayer meetings in our churches. “The American church is functionally prayerless when it comes to corporate prayer,” Miller writes. This is partially due to the influence of our secular culture that has seeped into our individual lives as well as our churches. “Secularism defines normal for us. Talking openly about God or to God feels odd.” 

He then discusses the vibrant prayer life of the New Testament church, its effect and triumph in a dark world culture. Miller poses this question at the end of that chapter: “Wouldn’t it be just like Jesus to use the church’s current weakness to make it a praying power center and thus a beacon of hope to a dying world?”

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