My 10 Favorite Reads in 2016

So many great books published, too little time to read them all. In no particular order, here are my favorite nonfiction reads this year. Almost all of them were published in 2016.

  1. Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus, by L. Michael Morales.
  2. The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology, by Jeremy R. Treat.
  3. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, by James K. A. Smith.
  4. A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness, by John Piper.
  5. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, by Timothy Keller.
  6. Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification, by Sinclair B. Ferguson.
  7. Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel, by Ray C. Ortlund.
  8. God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ, by Stephen J. Wellum.
  9. Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization, by Os Guinness.
  10. Unparalleled: How Christianity’s Uniqueness Makes It Compelling, by Jared C. Wilson.

My 2015 List of 10 Favorite Books

In no particular order, here are my ten favorite books that I read in 2015, though some were published earlier than this year. More can and should be said about each, but a few sentences per book will have to suffice for now.

  1. The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ, by Ray Ortlund. Devotional, enriching, moving. I believe every pastor and every church member would greatly benefit from the time spent in this book. I read it at the beginning of 2015, and now near the end of this year, I’m still exceedingly grateful for its message. O how we need the gospel as Christians.
  2. Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness, by Richard Hays. This book was great fun to read and full of insight. Hays wants readers to see how the Old Testament helps you read the New, and how the New Testament helps you read the Old. Lightning strikes all over the place.
  3. The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story, by Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen. The authors narrate the story of the Bible, including a brief chapter on the intertestamental period. In six “Acts,” they take you from the creation of the world to the return of Jesus. This is a well-written and well-told drama about the Greatest Story ever told!
  4. The Pastor’s Ministry: Biblical Priorities for Faithful Shepherds, by Brian Croft. I’ve benefited from Croft’s other books, but this may be his most important to date. And the subtitle is right on point: he lays out the biblical priorities for pastors. This is a book ministers should read and re-read. The author is a pastor who loves pastors, and he knows exactly what we need to hear.
  5. The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts, by Joe Rigney. At the risk of overstating my case, this is not only one of my favorite books this year, it’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Rigney is wise and thoughtful as he guides the reader on how to appropriate God’s gifts in His world.
  6. Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, by Timothy Keller. I love Keller’s writing and preaching, so I was especially excited to pick up this book. And it was everything I hoped it would be. Preachers should read books on preaching, and Keller’s is a must.
  7. Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ, by Tony Reinke. There are only a few books I’ve read in one sitting, and Reinke’s book on Newton is one of them. Once I started, I didn’t want to stop. His work on Newton is soul-nourishing. Added to that: Reinke is a fantastic writer!
  8. Traces of the Trinity: Signs of God in Creation and Human Experience, by Peter J. Leithart. Speaking of fantastic writers, Leithart is the man. This book made me laugh and cry, hopefully at all the right places. He writes with beauty about beauty, and these pages left me in greater awe of God. Our Maker is a magnificent artist who has left traces of Himself everywhere.
  9. Knowing Christ, by Mark Jones. I am drawn to books on Christology, and this one had a particularly strong pull. A few pages into the book, I realized I would love Christ more after finishing it, which is exactly what Jones would want. If Christ is like a diamond held high, Jones turns it slowly and patiently, leaving us to marvel at every angle.
  10. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis (former MI6 spy). I know this seems like cheating, because the Chronicles contain seven books. But this is my list, and you can’t stop me. Adding to the enjoyment of the series was the experience I had reading these aloud to me seven-year-old. My first journey through them may have been as an adult, but I still believe in Deeper Magic before the dawn of time.

If you’ve enjoyed any of the above, I’d love to know.

16 Books on Preaching and Pastoral Ministry

This last weekend marked 16 years since I’ve been preaching, and I’ve been encouraged by many helpful resources along the way. Here’s a list of 16 books on preaching and pastoral ministry. I commend them to you, in no particular order:

(1) Preaching and Preachers, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

(2) The Trellis and the Vine, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

(3) Lectures to My Students, by Charles Spurgeon

(4) Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, by Mark Dever

(5) Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, by Eugene Peterson

(6) Spirit-Led Preaching, by Greg Heisler

(7) Why Johnny Can’t Preach, by T. David Gordon

(8) Christ-Centered Preaching, by Bryan Chappell

(9) Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons, by Thabiti Anyabwile

(10) The Pastor’s Ministry, by Brian Croft

(11) Why We Love the Church, by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

(12) The Surprising Offense of God’s Love, by Jonathan Leeman

(13) The Supremacy of God in Preaching, by John Piper

(14) Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, by John Piper

(15) Dangerous Calling, by Paul Tripp

(16) The Shepherd Leader, by Timothy Witmer

My 10 Favorite Books in 2014

What a gift reading is! I’m thankful for good books that illumine mind and stir the soul. And at a time of end-of-year lists, here’s my compilation, in no particular order, of my 10 favorite reads from 2014 (though they weren’t necessarily published this year).

1) Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me, by Kevin DeYoung. I’ve enjoyed reading DeYoung’s books for years, and this may be his best yet. Why should we take the Bible seriously? Why should we think it is inspired and inerrant? How did Jesus view the Old Testament? In eight chapters, DeYoung answers these questions and more.

2) Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity, by Charles E. Hill. If you enjoy books on eschatology, you’ll benefit from this book. It’s the most technical on this list, and the only one with a Latin title! What did the early church have to say about the millennium of Revelation 20? Where did they believe the soul went after death? Hill is a trustworthy guide through primary sources, and his book brims with insights. No matter where you land on the millennium question, Hill’s presentation is equal parts fascinating and thorough.

3) Now My Eyes Have Seen You: Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job, by Robert S. Fyall. In my opinion, the series “New Studies in Biblical Theology” is unmatched. Fyall writes on Job, and his book repays the reader with dividends of insight, especially in his treatment of Behemoth and Leviathan. He, of course, cannot address every verse of Job’s forty-two chapters, but he engages the key themes and passages.

4) Reforming Marriage: Gospel Living for Couples, by Doug Wilson. I think every married couple ought to read this book, especially every husband. And yes, I know that sounds like an overstatement. Oh well. Wilson explains God’s plan for marriage, and in a time of cultural revolution, few topics are more relevant than this one. In slightly over 100 pages, Wilson doesn’t waste a word. He wields his gift of writing to tackle headship, submission, child-bearing, forgiveness, sex, and a dozen other things in the mix. My wife and I read this book together, which made for great conversation and reflection.

5) The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms, by Gordon Wenham. I loved this book because it helped me love the Psalms more. Wenham drives the reader to worship. He instructs us in canonical and messianic readings of the Psalter. He also engages imprecatory psalms, always a matter of dispute among Bible readers. The whole book is good, but the first half is stronger than the second.

6) The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation, by Graham Cole. No one is more important than Jesus Christ, and the incarnation is the foundational event of the gospel. I’ve benefited from Cole’s other books, and this was no exception. If I taught a class on Christology, this book would be required reading. Does the Old Testament predict the incarnation? How do the Old Testament stories prepare the way for God to be “with us” forever? I read this book during Advent, and Cole helped me think about the incarnation afresh. (And this book is also a volume in the “New Studies in Biblical Theology”–I told you I loved that series!)

7) An Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness, by Andrew Davis. This book is about sanctification, and it is outstanding. Providing a map of the areas of Christian growth, Davis guides the reader through the “K-F-C-A cycle”: Knowledge, Faith, Character, and Action. What Davis accomplished with his book is tantamount to a systematic theology of sanctification! It’s brilliant.

8) Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, by Michael Horton. In this book, Horton provides a diagnosis and cure that is relevant to many believers who may feel overwhelmed and burnt out by the ceaseless demands to change the world and do something radical for God. If that describes you, Horton wants you to sit down, lean in close, and calm down for a minute. Horton calls us to steadfastness, to a life of faithfulness. He points us to the glory of God’s kingdom and the power of the gospel. He calls us to love our neighbor. He calls us to serve the body of Christ. And he calls us to a contentment that doesn’t undermine godly ambition. What a refreshing book this was!

9) With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology, by James Hamilton. This is a fantastic addition to the “New Studies in Biblical Theology” series. (Have I mentioned that I love that series?) Hamilton is a gifted writer who is drenched in the Bible, so when he writes about the Bible, lights are going to come on and your heart will be glad to be under his instruction.

10) Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God, by Dane Ortlund. This was the last book I read in 2014, and I knew it would make my list of 10 Favorites as soon as I finished the first chapter. Covering subjects like prayer, joy, Scripture, Satan, and heaven, Ortlund covers the Christian life–from an Edwardsian perspective–in twelve chapters, and he devotes a thirteenth to several thoughtful criticisms of Edwards. The book was pure joy to read.

Review of “The Life, Teaching, and Legacy of Martin Luther”

Lindsey, Andrew J. The Life, Teaching, and Legacy of Martin Luther. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2013. 100 pp. $11.95.

God gifted his Church with the person of Martin Luther at an appointed time and place. It is hard to underestimate the significance of Luther regarding the years of the Reformation and the abiding influence of his works. While we may know specific events of Luther’s life or memorable quotes from his works, Andrew Lindsey wants you to consider his life as a whole. The title of his book aptly conveys his goal: to take the reader on a journey through the life, teaching, and legacy of Luther. Lindsey’s degree in and devoted study of church history make him a trustworthy guide.

In the opening sentence of the introduction, Lindsey writes, “It is my goal in writing this work to render an account of Martin Luther’s life that is brief, simple, accurate, and evangelical” (ix). In my judgment, Lindsey succeeded in this goal. There are hefty tomes on Luther, and some biographers may not prioritize writing on a level that almost anyone could appreciate, so Lindsey has done readers a great service by providing a concise treatment that touches on the important issues of Luther’s life while at the same time not being intimidating with jargon or word-count. Adults will benefit from this book, and it is something their children can read as well.

Lindsey is a gifted writer in his clarity and presentation of Luther. The twelve chapters are short but stocked with helpful information.
1) Origin, Education, and the Monastery
2) Early Monastic Career, First Mass, and the Pilgrimage to Rome
3) Professorship in Wittenberg and Evangelical Experience
4) Background to the 95 Theses
5) Posting the 95 Theses
6) Interview With Cardinal Cajetan
7) The Leipzig Disputation and the Papal Bull
8) The Diet of Worms
9) “Sir George”
10) Marriage and Family Life
11) The Augsburg Confession
12) Death and Legacy

Each chapter concludes with questions for reflection and discussion. Sprinkled throughout the book are sketches of Luther and individuals and events associated with him, and these sketches add to the book’s aesthetic appeal. The bibliography at the end is an invitation to go even deeper into Luther’s life and works.

Do you know why Luther became a monk? Do you know the verse that was influential in his conversion? Do you know why he nailed 95 Theses on a church door? Do you know why he was declared a heretic by the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church? Do you know the context of his famous “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise”? Do you know about the amazing writing feats he accomplished in Wartburg Castle? Do you know why he, who previously thought he’d remain a single man, decided finally to marry? Do you know Luther’s last written words? Do you know what Luther called the essence of the Bible’s theology? Do you know which of his books he deemed to be chief among his other works?

Here’s the bottom line: Christians need to know about Martin Luther, and The Life, Teaching, and Legacy of Martin Luther is the place to begin. I’m thankful for Lindsey’s work on this project, and I know Christian schools and churches would benefit from using his book. More so, families will be edified by reading it and discussing it. As is the case with any good but concise treatment of a subject, Lindsey’s book on Luther will leave you wanting more!