M.

My Favorite Books of 2021

Every year I attempt to read at least one book a month on average. This year I had set a goal to read fourteen books, but according to my GoodReads account I finished twenty-five. Now, I must admit that some of these books I started in 2020 and finished in 2021 because they were ones I read in order to help me with my study to preach. However, I do think twenty of them I read and finished within the year.

I have learned to love to read over the years. My preaching professor in college once said, “If you want to be an interesting preacher, you have to be an interesting person. If you want to be an interesting person, you have to read.” Well, I took him seriously. I’ve been reading more and more over the years, and I thought I would post my top ten from this year in hopes that it would encourage you to pick up and read! Here’s my top ten from 2021.

No. 10

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II
By Darlene Deibler Rose

This autobiography was recommended to me by Bethany who heard about while listening to a podcast. I think I read the book in two days because I couldn’t put it down. I would read, weep, read some more, weep some more, and keep reading! It’s a riveting story and one that every Christian should read to grow their faith and watch the hand of God work in miraculous ways!

No. 9

The Path to Being a Pastor: A Guide for the Aspiring
By Bobby Jamieson

I read this book along with our church staff and found it the most concise and most helpful I’ve ever read on aspiring to be a pastor. Many young men in the church need help understanding what the process to becoming a pastor looks like and this book is the book I will be handing them from now on. It’s Biblical, practical, and doesn’t overwhelm. Give this to the young men in your church!

No. 8

All The Light We Cannot See
By Anthony Doerr

I’ve only recently discovered how helpful novels can be to add to your reading diet, but this one needs to be on your “to-read” list. I believe they call it a historical novel in that it is set during a real historical period (World War II) but tells a fictional tale of two young people living at the same time. It’s incredibly creative how Anthony Doerr blends these two seemingly different characters’ stories. I loved this book and kept it by my bedside for an easy read before getting some shut eye.

No. 7

Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression
By Zack Eswine

This is a book I bought after listening to a sermon by Patrick Schreiner on the dark nights of the soul that a friend had recommended to me. Through various trials this year, including tearing my calf muscle, throwing out my back, and even getting shingles, I found my own soul hurting and sorrowful. But in God’s kindness this book was a friend to me. Zack Eswine brings part of the life of Spurgeon to the forefront that many don’t know about. Spurgeon was open and honest about his own depression and I would gladly pass this book along to anyone suffering from “dark nights of the soul” or anyone trying to help a friend.

No. 6

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture
By David Murray

Following Spurgeon’s Sorrows I felt I needed some practical insight into ministry as I considered ways in my own life that needed course correction. Reset was just the book for that and was an encouragement to me in having balance and consistency in my life, family, and work. One of the major takeaways for me from this book was the focus on taking care of my physical body which I have been able to do more effectively the latter half of this year. I loved this book and while it’s designed for men, there’s a companion book for women called Refresh written by David and his wife Shona which Bethany has also been enjoying.

No. 5

Raising Men Not Boys: Shepherding Your Sons to Be Men of God
By Mike Fabarez

In the last few months I’ve challenged myself to read a few different books on parenting, especially on raising my oldest son. Of the three books I’ve finished, I found this book to be very practical and helpful and just the one I needed to get my thinking straight and consider how I can be a more intentional father. This book is focused on raising boys (of which I have two), but I do find that some of the principles and concepts would transfer to my daughters as well.

No. 4

Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making
By Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson is known as a singer/songwriter, especially for his song “Is He Worthy?” and his Christmas album “Behold The Lamb of God.” He’s also known for his children’s novels “The Wingfeather Saga.” But did you know that he has written two non-fiction books as well? Adorning the Dark is the first and you could almost call it a book about songwriting, but that would be way too narrow. Blending his own story while teaching how to be creative this book is a great gift for those in your life who feel like artists. But Andrew would probably argue with me about that because he is quick to proclaim that everyone is creative because we are created in the image of the Creator!

No. 3

The God of the Garden: Thoughts on Creation, Culture, and the Kingdom
By Andrew Peterson

If I’m going to read one Andrew Peterson book, why not read the follow up? Sometimes I tell people this is a book about trees, but like his first book, it’s way more. This book challenged me to think about place and how we need to “grow where we’re planted” so to speak. Masterfully this book takes the planting of trees and again weaves his own story and love for God’s creation to challenge us to see the world through the lens of God’s creation and His Word. The chapter on “the weeper in the trees” paints an incredible picture of Christ!

No. 2

Love Walked Among Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus
By Paul Miller

I wish I could hang out with Paul Miller. I wish that I could sit at his feet and listen to him talk about the man Jesus. That’s because it seems that in every one of his books I learn more about the man that Paul loves. This book will help you love Jesus more too. It’s one of those books that I probably need to read every other year and just be reminded how loving Jesus is and how I still don’t look like Him. Paul Miller can help us all do that and this book is one of the tools he uses.

No. 1

Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End
By David Gibson

It took me all of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 to read this book. Not because it’s a long book, it’s only 176 pages. It took me a while because it was my companion book as I preached through the book of Ecclesiastes. I didn’t want to get too far ahead in it and I wanted to savor it. In fact, in many ways I feel like I’m still reading this book in the same way I’m still reading the book of Ecclesiastes. Few books have had a greater impact on my thinking on a book of the Bible than this one. And few books have had a greater impact on my thinking about life than the book of Ecclesiastes. Buy this book, grab some friends, bring your Bible, and get ready to allow it to open your eyes to one of the most misunderstood books in the Scriptures. When you’re done, enjoy your life. You’ll see what I mean when you finish.

M.

My Top 10 Books…For Now

Every night I sit down to write about our day here in Czech. Most days have at least one event that I can expound on in this new place, but today was just normal. I say normal because we had a nice breakfast together as a family, I worked at the JV offices most of the day and we spent the evening having dinner with some of our teammates. For the most part, that’s pretty normal. So in lieu of trying to find something exciting (besides the amazing Swedish pancakes my wife made for breakfast today), I thought I would answer a question from my friend, Scott.

Beyond the Blog (9/10/14)

He recently asked me to put together a list of my ten favorite books, so I’m publishing them here for everyone to see. As I looked back at the books I’ve consumed it becomes very apparent the genre that I tend towards is Christian theology. I didn’t really become an avid reader until the past eight years and I try to read twelve books every year. I’m sure this list could and will change in the future, but here are the books that I would say have had the most impact on my life up till this point (these are listed here in no particular order):

holiness_by_grace Holiness By Grace by Bryan Chapell – This book radically changed my understanding and view of God’s grace. It has influenced my reading of Scripture and my view of God in general. In fact, “it’s all grace” (the name of this site) was a phrase that kept coming to my mind after I read this book. As someone who struggled greatly with legalism, and still do, knowing that there’s nothing I can do to earn more of God’s favor is freeing and produces joy. Christ finished it all on the cross.

spiritual_depression Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure by Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Why don’t Christians have joy? Are not Christians supposed to be the most joyful people in the world? These are the questions Martyn Lloyd-Jones wants to answer and they are questions that are just as relevant today as they were when this book was written 50 years ago. It’s a book the is saturated in God’s Word and so helpful in thinking through why we lose our joy in the Christian life and how to get it back again.

bible The Bible – I wonder sometimes why people don’t put this in their book lists. Maybe we just assume Christians like the Bible, but I really do like to read the Bible. Currently, I’m reading 10 chapters in 10 different books every day and have been for almost two years now. It’s an incredible book filled with amazing people, amazing stories, and an amazing God who loves us! The picture we get of Christ in the gospels, watching the transformation of the disciples and the new church beginning in Acts, reading the creation story in Genesis, and even listening to the prophets–it’s all in the Bible! Even though I’ve read through the Bible multiple times, I’m still amazed at what I think I’m reading for the first time. This book is amazing but the God of in the book will make it worth the read.

meaning_at_the_movies Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer by Grant Horner – Written by one of my professors at The Master’s College, I think this book stands alone as the book on film and how to watch movies to the glory of God. This is not a book about which movies to watch, but a higher level book on how to watch movies with a focus on Christ. You’ll be amazed at how Prof Horner helps you discern through the different film genres and what you can be thinking about as you watch. Over and over he says, “God makes us in His image, we make movies in ours.” It’s a book worth reading if you’re ever going to watch another movie!

how_to_read_a_book How To Read a Book by Mortimer Adler – The title really tells all on this one, but this book, originally published in 1940, is still the book on how to read. It walks through all the different genres of literature (including a section on reading the Bible) that will help you read better, take better notes, and just think better as you read. I never read a book without a pen now, and I’m constantly writing in the margins and trying to find the key phrases from each author. It’s worth at least one read in your life time and maybe a couple more.

bonhoeffer Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes – This is a 600+ autobiography that reads like a thriller. I plowed through each page of this book just waiting to see what happens, even though the author tells you the ending at the beginning of the book. This book gives you an inside scoop into what was going on in Germany during the reign of Hitler and provided me a perspective I had never heard before. And as a Christian, seeing Bonhoefer’s life and the way he thought was compelling and challenged me to think about the cost of follow Christ. We can learn a lot from the life of Bonhoeffer and this book will help.

when_helping_hurts When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert – There’s no other way of saying it: this book changed my thinking about how we do missions and how to do it better. With incredible research and simple writing, these authors explain how to create sustainable and lasting change in places that desperately need it. If you’re involved in Christian missions, you need to read this book–it will help and definitely not hurt.

amusing_ourselves_to_death Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman – It’s still hard to believe this book was written in 1985. This book on the age of the television and the effect it has had on our culture is enlightening and helpful. Neil Postman is basically prophetic in his view of what the future holds for a generation of people who only watch moving pictures and rarely read. It’s a book I think of often as I think about technology and culture and probably change the way you watch the Nightly News.

conviction_to_lead Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler – I’ve read a lot of leadership books, but if I had to pick one this would be it. Al Mohler, who we listen to daily on his podcast, absolutely nails the essentials needed for leadership today and writes with the authority of many years of experience and results. I believe his 25 leadership principles combined with his theme of conviction are crucial no matter what capacity of leadership you might be in. As a bonus, his comments on television and social media in the later chapters are worth the entire book!

hole_in_our_holiness The Hole in Our Holiness, What is the Mission of the Church, or anything by Kevin DeYoung – I can’t say I’ve read everything by Kevin DeYoung, but of the four books that I’ve devoured from him I can honestly say I can’t get enough. The Hole in Our Holiness is a book I read with a group of men and one that I think often when I read about “the high places” in the Old Testament. It’s a book that focuses on God and helps us genuinely think through what’s missing in our understanding of holiness. What is the Mission of the Church is a book that helps us look at what the Bible says about the church and what it doesn’t say. Both reads have been crucial in helping me think Biblically about their respective theses. Kevin DeYoung is a great writer and his pastoral heart will leave you feeling well cared for.