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

Top Blog Posts of 2014

 

This year 2014 was a great year. I became more aware of God’s grace in my life and yet at the same time more aware of my need for grace. Thankful for each of you and all that you have added to my life this year. I am humbled that more people than just my mom read this blog. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

All is Grace,
Sam

Here are the 10 blog posts you enjoyed most this year.

  1. Apps that limit my child’s time on the iPad.

    So how do you limit the length of a user’s session on an iPad?

    clock app icon 1

    One easy way that this can be achieved is with the Clock app. It is
    an Apple app that should be already on your iDevice. Follow these simple
    steps below to use the Clock app to set the duration of a user’s
    session:

    • Launch the Clock app and select Timer.
    • Set the timer to the amount of time that you would like your child
      to have access to the device for (in hours and minutes). Also check that
      in Sounds (iPad) that Stop Playing is selected. If it is not select that option.
      Read full blog post…. 
  2. How We Stop Short In The Debate On Christians And Alcohol.

    The problem with the debate of alcohol is every person I have heard
    preach against it has stopped short of the real problem alcohol
    represents. In stopping short they make alcohol out to be evil when
    there is nothing in scripture or in 2000 years of church writing that
    would show alcohol as evil. Alcohol is not evil the abuse of it is. The
    inordinate reliance on it is.
    Read full blog post….

  3. My Reading List From 2013

    They say
    leaders are readers so I set a goal this year to read 52 books and I
    fell short of that goal, but here are the books I did read this year.
    Some I will add to my read yearly list, all of them impacted me in
    various ways.

    1 Lone Survivor – Marcus Luttrell

    #2 Lead Small – Reggie Joiner3 Non Profit Narrative – Dan Portnoy

    Read full blog post….

     

  4. Why You Should Read Old Books.

    I love to read. Even with my passionate desire to grow I sometimes find reading a challenge. What is even more difficult than reading books? Reading old books. I have been more intentional about reading books and reading lots of them in the past two years. One of the things I have been most intentional about
    lately is reading old books. I started by accident and by necessity
    reading old books but most recently I have done it on purpose. This is
    largely due to a C.S. Lewis quote I stumbled upon a few months back
    Read full blog post….

     

  5. Top Family Ministry Blogs 2014

    Family ministry has been a priority for churches since the 80’s but in
    the past 15 years there has been a new push for youth and kids
    ministries to be working together in sync with each other in a way that
    produces a cohesive strategy to equip and empower families like never
    before. When I started blogging 7 years ago there were only a handful of
    children’s pastors blogging. There were also a few youth pastor blogs
    as well. The desire I had for my blog at the beginning was to be to
    someone else what I wish I had when I started.Read full blog post….

  6. Self-esteem Is Ruining Your Kids.

    As a child of the 70’s I grew up
    80’s where baby boomers were loving life, loving love and loving
    themselves. This translated to every area of life including their
    parenting. The seeds of self-esteem were laid by my parents generation
    and have taken full root in my generation. It’s this idea that kids need
    to have a positive outlook in life, they need to love themselves. While
    in limited ways this can be true the pervasiveness of this idea is
    killing the collective conscience of our country and is ruining our
    kids.
    Read Full Blog Post…

     

  7. Answer Your Kid’s Direct Questions With Direct Answers.

    If we tell our kids half-truths they will find out once they discover
    our half-truths we have used to deflect or delay from tough
    conversations our kids will begin to wonder which half of everything we
    say is untrue. When you answer a question with age appropriate
    directness you remove the power of curiosity. Kids have always been
    curious the only things that has changed is the internet allows our kids
    to not only satisfy any curiosity but it feeds their curiosity.
    Read Full Blog Post….

     

  8. Free Easter Curriculum: God To The Rescue.

    I’ve shared here and here about the how and why
    leading up to the creation of a free resource for the kidmin community
    by the kidmin community. We are really excited to be able to offer it
    for free on our blogs.

    What we did was create a 5 week curriculum that unveils God’s rescue
    plan unveiled in the Old Testament and seen in action in the days
    leading up to Good Friday and Easter. I love how the clear emphasis is
    on Christ and what he did and what we can do in response.

    Read Full Blog Post….

  9. What We Can Learn From Mark Driscoll and Acts 29

    There has
    been a lot of buzz around the internet about the removing of Mars Hill
    and its founding pastor Mark Driscoll from the church network he helped
    to create Acts 29. There are ideas, theories flying and everyone it
    seems is picking a side and digging in for virtual battle.

    I won’t go into the details of the situation because that is covered
    in detail by other posts. Basically the Acts 29 Board felt sufficient
    cause for concern for Mark Driscoll, his church and the Acts29 that they
    have chosen to remove Mark and his church from any affiliation with the
    Acts 29 network.
    Read Full Blog Post….

  10. What The Gospel Demand Of Parents

    What does the gospel require of parents?

    1. Walk in Humility

    – say your sorry – – Kids have a sense of justice at
    an early age. They know when you have wronged them. They know when you
    have overstepped and overreached.

    Phillipians 2:5-8 – Christ modeled for us humility. He was God but did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage, but humbled Himself. If God can do that for us we can lead our families in humility.

    “The Key to the family functioning as a
    redemptive community, where the Gospel is the glue that holds the family
    together, is parents who so trust in Christ that they are ready and
    willing to confess their faults to their children.” Paul David Tripp

    If you want your kids to understand the gospel model humility.
    Read Full Blog Post….