Im not a great reader but each year I attempt to read 1-2 books a month. Here are my top ten reads from 2019 in no particular order.
None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us (and why that’s a good thing) – Jen Wilkin
Jen is an exceptional author. While the majority of her ministry audience is female, Jen writes more as a theologian and practitioner. Meaning that apart from a few feminine references along the way some of her books are very accessible for men. This is one of those books. It’s a great introduction into the theological category known as the attributes of God. Jen takes what some might fear is complicated theology and makes it very attainable and practical. Jen’s book focuses on God’s divine attributes. Attributes such as his immutability, omnipresence, incomprehensibility, and more. These are fundamental to growing in a biblical view of the incommunicable (unique to God) attributes of God. While other great theologians have written numerous books on such theological topics, Jen’s focus is on how these truths change the way we live. It’s a very accessible read. Highly recommend it for both men and women.
Enjoying God: Experience the Power and Love of God in Everyday Life – Tim Chester
Tim is one of my favourite authors, and I try and read anything he puts out. Tim’s focus in this book is to look at how we relate to the triune God with a particular focus on enjoying Him. The first chapter is critical, as Tim sets up the truth of the trinity from an orthodox historical Christian understanding. This first chapter allows Tim to unpack specific aspects and roles each person, Father, Son and Spirit, play in our lives and how we relate without separating the persons. Tim’s excellent work makes you always aware that while connecting to one, you are ultimately communing to the three. I enjoyed the challenge to deepen my understanding of each member of the trinity without neglecting the others. Something I am tempted to do. This book is rich with gospel truth and application, and I have given it to many of our team at Life Centre Church.
Moses and The Burning Bush – R. C. Sproul
R.C Sproul passed away in late 2017. He was an incredible teacher of God’s Word, and one of my favourite modern theologians. I will miss his ministry. (check out ligonier.org) Yet his writings live on, and I endeavour to read everything he ever wrote. This book was better than I anticipated. So much gold, particularly around the concept of the identity of God. Chapters 6-8, in particular, were inciteful as R.C. dug into the theology of the ‘I Am’ from the story of Moses’ encounter with God on Sinai. It’s a short read and very useful for someone considering preaching through the early chapters of Exodus.
Strength For The Weary – Derek W.H. Thomas
I don’t believe I had ever read anything by Derek Thomas previous to this book. Published by Ligonier, I knew it would be theologically robust, but what I didn’t expect was just how much it would speak to me personally. Derek has a focus on the writings of Isaiah as he unpacks helpful insights for weary or wounded pilgrims like me. Weariness is something all people experience, Christian or not. We live in a world where the is no rest, there is no comfort, and there is no help. Not so for the Christian. Derek can help you believe, in the reality of your weariness that God is near and the God of comfort for the weary. I was greatly encouraged in reflecting upon my weariness and the weariness of people in my church. Derek has the skill of weaving profound theological truths in very pastoral ways. Great read.
The Gospel-Driven Church: Uniting Church Growth Dreams With The Metrics of Grace – Jared C. Wilson
This is a much-needed book in the church culture right now. As the church continues to lose confidence in its position within secular culture, it continues to compromise to be effective. While much of the church growth movement of the ’70s and ’80s had a heart to reach the lost, the seek-sensitive movement likewise has a focus on non-Christians. This desire is commendable, and Jared seeks to be charitable to the motivation. The danger, however, is just how far the church goes to reach culture and how it slowly adapts CEO and corporate forms of measuring success. With an overtly secularised focus, the church ends up losing the very thing that gives it it’s power in the first place. That power is the Word of God and particularly the gospel. Jared’s book is an essential caution to make sure the main thing remains the main thing in the church and to draw us back to metrics of grace.
The Theology of The Gospel Of Luke (New Testament Theology) – Joel B. Green
From the outset, I must say that there is much in this book that I can’t entirely agree with. Specifically, Green’s overemphasis of the social justice aspect of the gospel. His focus tends to overlook the centrality of repentance and forgiveness of sin in Luke’s Gospel. Yet God used Green’s overemphasis to highlight my underemphasis. As I found myself disappointed at how he missed entire themes within Luke’s presentation of the gospel, his emphasis exposed my hypocrisy. While it is not easy is to admit my lack of attention to caring for the poor, sick, needy and outcast, God used Green’s book to challenge me personally. The very thing I believe Green lacked in his expounding of Luke’s gospel, “repentance and forgiveness” I found myself participating in as I finished the book. Not for everyone, but God used it to shape my heart.
Living In God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision For Christianity and Culture – David VanDrunen
VanDrunen offers a biblically rich approach to addressing the tension that Christians and churches alike sense concerning one’s approach to cultural engagement. Living in God’s Two Kingdoms presents the concept of there being two main kingdoms, a common kingdom and a redemptive kingdom. VanDrunen seeks to unpack from a biblical perspective how a Christian, someone secured in the redemptive kingdom, is supposed to interact as a sojourner and exile within the common kingdom. The strength of this book is the focus on Christ’s work, and the call for the church to focus on the unique work of the redemptive kingdom. David Vandrunen clearly writes to course correct a movement within evangelicalism. This movement is known as the”Redemptive Transformation of Culture.” Some within this movement hold to a social justice gospel absent of the redemptive gospel. The RTC often believe that the social changes made within the common kingdom will last into the fully realised redemptive kingdom. David V ultimately challenges this idea from an exegetical and theological framework. And he is very convincing. While he doesn’t dismiss a Christian’s desire to engage culture with the hope for change, VanDrunen does challenge the drift towards seeing oneself as a citizen of the present kingdom. It is a helpful critique and challenge for the church of Jesus Christ to not lay aside the true gospel message while engaging culture. He may go too far towards a detached view of the church from the culture, but the challenge is worth the read. I would encourage it to be read alongside some of the transformationist such as N.T Wright, Douglas Moo, Kuyper and others.
Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics and Romance Became Our New Religion And What To Do About It – David Zahl
David Zahl has written an excellent book in Seculosity. A must-read for any person in pastoral ministry. The premise of the book is that our culture has not become less religious. Instead, it has replaced traditional forms of religion with modern. Zahl, in very “Kellerish” style, highlights how our culture looks to everyday activities such as eating, faimly, dating, technology and even politics to find identity, purpose and meaning. It is a fascinating read and helpful in diagnosing much of what is hurting our secular culture. His concept of “enoughness” is telling. Especially as it is out of reach and therefore, in our cultures attempt to attain it, we are left anxious and burnt out. As a pastor, this book is inciteful, exposing much of what I see in and outside the church. Zahl not only diagnoses the problem; however, he concludes as to how the grace of God is essential to living a healthy gospel-centred life of real joy. Great book.
Joseph: A Story of Love, Hate, Slavery, Power and Forgiveness – John C. Lennox
My favourite read of the year. We preached through the story of Joseph from Genesis 37-50 at Life Centre Church (https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/life-centre-churchs-podcast/id455195706?mt=2). This book was by far the best resource I used. Lennox, an Oxford mathematician and famous Christian apologist, surprised me with his edifying exposition of the story of Joseph. Lennox brings this story to life and draws relatable parallels of Joseph’s difficulties with our own. From the pain of family to hardships and suffering and the often difficult task of trusting God while experiencing such challenges. Lennox draws out the never-ending theological complexity of human responsibility and God’s sovereignty. He encourages believers to trust God’s more excellent plan that transcends our vision. This book is excellent for anyone seeking to study Genesis or even just experiencing personal difficulties that require trust in God’s goodness and sovereign rule. Read Genesis 37-50, accompanied by this book. You won’t be disappointed.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris
Now I am cheating on this one. I have only just opened this book. Since my recent trip to Berlin and learning more surrounding the history of Germany, I have been watching documentaries and anything I can find. It’s devastatingly fascinating history. A friend of mine has lent me this book based on an incredible true story of the Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist. A Jew on the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov is put to work in the position of the tattooist to mark his fellow prisoners. This book is his story of love, beauty and hope as he “does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.” Looking forward to reading this incredible story.