Top 10 Books of 2020

In 2020 I read many books by people who have different views than I have, I read several books on CRT and Liberation Theology as well as some written by Progressive Theologians. I found it interesting to see the world as they see it. I also found it strengthen my resolve to fight for clarity in my thoughts and charity in my interactions with those with whom I disagree. As a result, my reading list was a bit more eclectic than most years. As I look forward to 2021 I do so with a mixture of excitement and sadness as I will be finishing my Seminary degrees. I don’t know if I disliked a book that was assigned to me and will miss the rigor of reading with a deadline. I am excited however to read what I want when I want. I plan on rereading some of my favorite books I read in obtaining my degree as well as much more fiction and hope to write a devotional for pre-teens before the year is out. That being said here are my top ten books for 2020.


The Trellis and the Vine
This book has been on my reading list for a while but had not had the time to get to it. It was required for school so I read it in November. Such a timely book for any pastor to read. If ever we needed the message and strategy of connection over programs it’s now. It ends with an eerie question of what we would do if we had to lead through a pandemic.

Imagine this… As we write, the first worrying signs of a swine-flu pandemic are making headlines around the world. Imagine that the pandemic swept through your part of the world and that all public assemblies of more than three people were banned by the government for reasons of public health and safety. And let’s say that due to some catastrophic combination of local circumstances, this ban had to remain in place for 18 months. How would your congregation of 120 members continue to function—with no regular church gatherings of any kind, and no home groups (except for groups of three)? If you were the pastor, what would you do?

ColinMarshall & Tony Payne


If that quote doesn’t make you want to read this book nothing will.


Live not by lies
Such a timely book. In a world where we are constantly bombarded by what Rod calls “soft totalitarianism” Live Not By Lies teaches American Christians a method for resistance:
    SEE: Acknowledge the reality of the situation.
    JUDGE: Assess reality in the light of what we as Christians know to be true.
    ACT: Take action to protect truth.
The most powerful weapon we have against the secularism of our age is seeing the truth and speaking the truth. Every Christian should read this book.


Atomic Habits
I haven’t read a ton of leadership books over the past few years but this one was recommended by everyone. I read it and was suprised by the simplicity and practical application of what Clear argues for. Also he likes baseball.


Christ Centered Preaching
I have read several books on expository preaching this one is one of the best in terms of explaining the importance of expository sermons as well as the practical examples that walk you through the process of doing so. I read this for a class Dr. Chapell taught at my Seminary. He is an equally gifted communicator and writer.


On Reading Well
One of my Master’s Degrees is in Christian and Classical Thought. My professors reinforced to us over and over again the importance of reading the great conversation in light of the Gospel because every little story we write points to the great story written for us. Dr. Prior highlights a classical work and the corresponding virtue it exemplifies. The result of her work is a more thoughtful reading of books, many of which were written by Christians, that was written with the desire to empower and inform a more virtuous public. Dr. Prior’s explanation of Flannery O’Connor was particularly helpful to me personally as I have read most of O’Connor’s work and missed most of the beauty within them because I was so taken back by the violence and tragedy I missed the redemptive nature of her stories.


Valley of Vision
I have used Valley of Vision to aid my daily times of prayer devotional for a couple of years. Going through this book slowly to meditate and processes its content fully. I found so many of these prayers directing my thoughts and strengthening my faith like few books I have ever read.

‘When used slowly, for meditation and prayer, these pages have often been used by God’s Spirit to kindle my dry heart.’ ——MARK DEVER

I can’t agree with Mark more. I encourage you to add this to your personal time of devotion. There is something so helpful and challenging about reading the prayers of others.


Scripture as Communication
Such a fantastic book. Dr. Brown addresses both of the extremes of Biblical interpretation. In our modern culture, the Bible is looked at as a set of rules to live by or stories to inspire. A prominent pastor in a recent book said that the Old Testament is for inspiration. Brown’s argument that the Bible is communication changes how we read, interpret, and interact with scripture. It is a much-needed vantage point in the present hermetical landscape of the evangelical church.



Deep Work
This is the second book by Newport I’ve read. He is very clear and extremely practical. I have been putting his simple yet profound ideas to the test and have experienced excellent results. We as a society are more distracted than ever we must fight for focus. I used to brag about how many things we can do at once. No longer. I join Newport in striving to do one thing at a time really really well.


Persuasion
Persuasion is a story of love and loss and patient endurance. In her excellent summary of the book which was my inspiration to read it in full Karen Swallow Prior says “The essence of patience is the willingness to endure suffering.” Patience is a lost virtue in our instant secular culture. We put it off till later so we can have it now. The result of this type of living is moral and spiritual bankruptcy. The story was a story of love that lost because of obedience to authority and refined and rekindled because of divine providence. It was my first Jane Austen novel and definitely not my last.

Patience is a virtue, not in overlooking wrong, but in refusing to do wrong in overcoming wrong.

Karen Swallow Prior



Black Rednecks & White Liberals
This year I read several books on race I found Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers and if you avoid the liberation theology at the end Cone’s work on lynching. The least helpful was White Fragility. Over the course of the past several months, I saw this title encouraged by several pastors. Pastor, please don’t do that. Out of all those titles, the reason I chose Thomas Sowell is that he addresses the topic of race in a way that is straightforward and hopeful. To say that being white makes you a racist and there is nothing you can do about it is not the answer to the real problem of racism. Sowell is thoughtful, hopeful, and clear. He is also African American as opposed to DiAngelo who is white. No matter where you fall on the political landscape it is helpful to understand issues of race and how to work toward speaking against real racism in our world today. I believe that Sowell’s work is a great asset in understanding the history of race and helpful solutions for today.

Here are the other books I read this year.

  1. Growth Groups by Colin Marshall
  2. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  3. Missions by Andy Johnson
  4. Canoeing The Mountains by Tod Bolsinger
  5. The Science of Missions by J.H. Bavanick
  6. White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
  7. Center Church by Tim Keller
  8. Letters to a Young Pastor by Eugene Peterson
  9. I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
  10. Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey
  11. The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone
  12. Suffering and Joy by Henri Nouwen
  13. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  14. Leadership for the Time of a Pandemic by Tod Bolsinger
  15. Confronting Old Testament Controversies by Tremper Longman
  16. Slaves, Women & Homosexuals by William Webb
  17. The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett
  18. The Bible Tells Me So…. by Peter Enns
  19. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill
  20. George MacDonald by C.S. Lewis
  21. Evolution and the Fall by James K.A. Smith
  22. In the Year of Our Lord 1943 by Alan Jacobs
  23. Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell
  24. American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson
  25. Resilient by Valerie Bell and Matt Markins
  26. Christ-Centered Sermons by Bryan Chapell
  27. A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
  28. Uncommon Ground by Timothy Keller
  29. Practice Resurrection by Eugene Peterson
  30. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  31. Reading the Bible With Heart and Mind by Tremper Longman
  32. Lethal Agent by Vince Flynn
  33. The Green Ember by S.D. Smith
  34. A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible by Robert Stein
  35. Hermeneutics by Henry Virkler
  36. Color of Compromise by Jamar Tisby
  37. Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson
  38. The Joy of Fearing God by Jerry Bridges
  39. A Theory of Everything by Alister McGrath
  40. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
  41. Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson
  42. Red War by Vince Flynn

My Ten Favorite Books of 2017

This year I wasn’t sure how many books I would be able to read other than the books I had to read for Seminary. So to maximize my time I tried to remove time killers like I Netflix and the increasingly painful to watch cable news. I went with my strategy of having a physical book, an audiobook and a kindle book I am always reading at the same time. This year I read more old books than I have ever before. Some of that was for school part of that was because I believe that the crazier things get in the evangelical world the more we are going to need the voices of those who have been there and done that already. What orthodox believers need to comfort themselves with is not politics but the reality there is no new heresy, there is no new theologically liberal idea that someone hasn’t thought of already. You don’t know this unless you read old books. Like every year I encourage you to pick up an old book.

So here are my 10 favorite books for 2017

Parenting by Paul David Tripp

I haven’t read a parenting book in a while so when this one came out I jumped on it. Sandra and I actually have been using this for a small group we are doing with some friends. Tripp’s opening salvo states that parenting is primarily about confession. The whole book is framed around the idea that we need God’s help as much as our kids. Such a crucial read for every parent. We are going to be using it again this spring for our next small group.

A Practical Guide to Culture by Kunkle and Stonestreet 

Raising kids in today’s world doesn’t happen by parents hoping for the best, it happens because of relentless effort and relentless trust. We trust God but we also have to put in the effort to help our kids not just know the Bible but to allow the Bible to frame their thinking. Lewis says it brilliantly this way “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” This is one of those books it helps you see everything through the lens of the gospel over the lens of your gut instinct which is always wrong. If you have children anywhere near middle school buy this book.

10 Best Books I Read in 2016

For those of you who are looking for presents for next Christmas or want to spend the Amazon gift cards, you got for Christmas here are the ten best books I read in 2016 and why you should read them too.

  1. Confessions – St. Augustine
    Confessions is a Christian Classic and rightfully so. What is so profound about the book is that it is an autobiography from a giant of the Christian faith written in the form of a prayer. It is the story of a restless soul because of disordered love. How a restless heart found it’s home in Christ. Beautiful, timeless and life-giving. A must read at some point in every Christian journey. 
  2. The Call to Joy and Pain. – Ajith Fernando
    This book was a book that came into our home at the perfect time. Every year we as a church family read four books together that tie into our pastor’s messages for the year. This was one of those books. It was not just a book that my wife and I read out of obligation to our church community it was profoundly helpful as we walked through the joy and pains of cancer. It is by far one of the best books I have read on the topic of suffering in the Christian life and the pastoral vocation. 
  3. The Rule of Love – JV Fesko
    The Rule of Love is a deceivingly small book. I read this in preparation for writing our VBS curriculum which was centered around the Ten Commandments. Fesko brings the Decalog to life in such a way that you are convicted afresh by each command. You see each command in ways you have never seen them before. JV doesn’t just leave you there wounded and bleeding he follows each command with the all-surpassing beauty of Christ that moved me to worship time and time again. 
  4. You Are What You Love – James K. A. Smith
    Many books have recently been written about worldview. These books are valuable, and I thank God that they have been written because their value in a post-Christian America should only increase. What Dr. Smith has done in his Book You Are What You Love is complete the picture that the worldview arguments begin. So many worldview books are written from a rationalistic point of view. Smith writes this book to say our worldview matters but what matters most is what do you love. He says we are first and foremost lovers. And he is right. For all you Family Pastor’s out there he has a couple of chapters on teaching kids and raising kids that are killer. Such a great book. 
  5. The Psalms of Jesus – Tim Keller
    I am not sure that I have read a better devotional in my life. Keller’s devotional on the Psalms came at the perfect time as my wife, and I walked through this devotional daily as we faced the task of walking through cancer treatment a day at a time. I found David and Keller the perfect companions for a journey that had good days and awful days but in both days a never changing sovereign God who never let go. 
  6. Christianity and Liberalism – J Gresham Machen
    This book was written in 1923 and read like it was written in 2015. The Liberalism that invaded the Mainlines in the early twentieth century has invaded much of evangelicalism as a whole in the twenty-first century. Machen’s diagnosis is powerful and more relevant that you could imagine. It serves as encouragement and warning to the church today. 
  7. The Pastor: A Memoir – Eugene Peterson
    This is a book I will read again. It is the Autobiography of Eugene Peterson the pastor and author of The Message translation of the Bible. It was not at all what I was expecting in all the best ways you could imagine. His approach to the scriptures, church, and to life, in general, was mystical yet theologically grounded in the scriptures. Out of all the books, I read this year this one challenged more presuppositions and spoke to me in a language I needed to hear from a pastor I have come to respect because he just wants to be just a pastor in a world that is telling pastors they need to be relevant, famous and efficient.
  8. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
    I read this book because of the considerable hype by everyone online. It did not disappoint. It was a beautifully written historical novel set in World War II. I was a story of sacrificial love and hope that was well worth every moment.
  9. Reclaiming Conversation – Sherry Turkle
    As a parent, this may be one of the more important books you can read. It is all about how do we reclaim conversation in a world that is increasingly nonverbal and overly electronic. Technology is not going away, and we need to be better at understanding and to leverage it in raising our digitally native kids so that technology enhances their world rather than destroying it. 
  10. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
    C.S. Lewis has a way of making extremely complicated truth understandable. His down to earth orthodoxy makes him so unique that his books even though they are half a century old they are completely relevant and not difficult to read. If you can only read one book by Lewis, I would say it should be this one. Mere Christianity is the cornerstone of Lewis’ view of the Christian faith and life in general. For those who are new to the Christian faith, it is formative for those who have been a Christian for a while it provides much-needed language in which to communicate your faith to others.

12 Books Every Leader Should Read.

book Leader

One of the things that I found as a leader that if you want to continue to grow you need to read books, and not just any book you need to read good books. The problem I have found is there are so many books out there many are great some not so great. A good book should feel like a conversation. Books give you the ability to have a conversation with people you will likely never meet. Great books do that.   One of the best strategies I have found to find a good book then read the books by the people they recommend and quote often. Here is a list of 12 good books to get you started.

  1. Theology –

    True Spirituality – Francis Schaeffer
    Prodigal God – Tim Keller
    Mere Christianity – CS Lewis
    Pilgrims Progress – John Bunyon
    Confessions – St. Augustine

  2. Technology –

    Reclaiming Conversation – Sherry Turkle

  3. Leadership –

    Leadership and Self-Deception – Arbinger Institute
    The Call To Joy and Pain – Ajith Fernando
    How to Read a Book – Mortimer J Adler

  4. Biography –

    Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
    Amazing Grace – Eric Metaxas
    Bonhoeffer – Eric Metaxas

 

The Ten Best Books of 2014

Here are the top ten books I read in 2014 and the reasons why.

  1. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey


    Total truth was a brilliant call “to awakening evangelical Christians to the need for a Christian “worldview,” which Pearcey defines as “a biblical informed perspective on all reality. I found this book to be foundational in how we see the world through the lens of the gospel. This book is a must read for every kid heading off to college and any youth pastor who works with high school or college age kids. The final section on the flaws in the evangelical church I found both helpful and intriguing.

  2. What’s Best Next by Matt Perman


    I have long been a fan of PeterDrucker. I have read “The Effective Executive” Numerous times. One things I felt was lacking from Drucker’s work and others like him. That was the purpose for productive living and working.Perman does an amazing job connecting practical ways to get things done to an underlying theological framework. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and plan on reading it again soon.

  3. Proof by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones


    I have read a couple of books by Jones and have enjoyed them. I was intrigued by Proof before I read it because from the index you could tell they were tackling the 5 points of Calvinism from a standpoint of grace rather than a forced acronym. Thoroughly enjoyed the book as they portrayed the Grace of God in such a profound way I found myself worshiping and filled with wonder as I read the pages of this book. This book is a must read for anyone who leans toward Calvinism. I don’t often cry when I read a book but there is a story Jones tells of his daughter that moved me to tears. Such a powerful picture of us belonging to God. It’s worth the purchase of the book for that story alone.

  4. Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering – Tim Keller


    This is one of those books that every Christan needs to read as they will encounter pain and loss at some point in their journey. Kellers treatment of suffering does all of us a favor as he so poignantly deals with suffering in such a way that it keeps us from being either trite or melodramatic when addressing the others in pain. Kellers brilliance lies in pointing to our ultimate hope which is Christ. Each chapter ends with areal life story of suffering that I found very hard to read as each one caused my heart to both wrench and rejoice at God’s goodness even if unseen. This book and “A grief observed by Lewis are the best books I have read thus far on the problem of human suffering.

  5. The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung


    If you have been a follower of my blog for any period of time you will know that I am a huge fan of Catechism. The Good News We Almost Forgot is a weekly devotional that I read as a book because each chapter was so good I couldn’t wait a week. DeYoung brilliantly,pastorally, and devotionally dives into each of the Lord’s Days as laid out by the Heidelberg Catechism. I found myself convicted regularly and sitting there after reading a chapter in an attitude of worship.The relevance of the theology in a 400 year old document is astounding.

  6. Bad Religion by Ross Douthat


    Bad Religion was a paradox because it was difficult to read and hard to put down. Douthat argues that “America’s problem isn’t too much religion, as a growing chorus of atheists have argued; nor is it an intolerant secularism, as
    many on the Christian right believe. Rather, it’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional faith and the rise of a variety of pseudo-Christianities that stroke our egos, indulge our follies, and  encourage our worst impulses.” I found it insightful enjoyed the fact that Douthat as a catholic had a great perspective on evangelical and catholic follies alike.

  7. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller

     
    I first read this book over 20 years ago in bible college. I read it again this year. Reading the same book 20 years later is interesting. Of all the books I read this year this book hit me hardest. I have been a “full-time shepherd” for nearly 18 years I find that I have become a pretty good Shepherd and at the same time a not so good sheep. As pastors we must not forget that we are sheep first shepherds second. This book does just that. Loved the insight the devotional feel and the loving truths that this book contains.

  8. Compassion Without Compromise by Adam Barr and Ron Citlau


    As a christian if you have not been asked what you believe about the issue of homosexuals and homosexual marriage yet, you will. What are you going to say? When someone you love invites you to a same-sex marriage ceremony what are you going to do? When you as a christian leader are interviewed by a reporter they will ask what you think. What are you going to say. Barr and Citleu offer an amazingly practical and pastoral book that will help you speak the truth in love. As christian we need to be loving but we can’t allow our desireto be loving to derail us from truth.

      

  9. Evangelism And The Sovereignty Of God by J.I. Packer 


    J.I. Packer is brilliant. I love his high view of both God and Scripture. In  his classic he talks about God’s role in salvation and how we cooperate with God in preaching the gospel. It is a classic on evangelism and should be read by all.

  10. Brothers We Are Not Professionals by John Piper


    I love Pipers passion. I enjoyed this book because he tapped into a passion of mine. That passion is for Pastors to be Pastors rather than savvy CEO’s. The business culture that has crept into the church has helped pastors be better leaders which has some value to be sure. But at what cost? That cost I would say is the erosion of the care of people, the dependence on Holy Spirit. In the United States we have turned the office of pastor into a profession rather than a calling. We need strong leaders in the pastorate but the price the church is paying for that leadership is far too steep and doesn’t honor God. I loved how Piper passionately calls pastors and leaders to the things that matter most. If you are a pastor I beg you to read this book. I pray that it will convict you as much as it convicted me.