“Buy you books, buy you books, and all you do is eat the covers.” My mom used to tell me this all the time when I was growing up. Needless to say, academics were not always my favorite pursuit. Even into college, I would rather stare out of an airplane window than a classroom window. But like so many others, near the end of my time in college I hit my stride – studying subjects and disciplines I really connected with an enjoyed. I’ve gone on to pursue many more years of education and did not actually become the college drop-out living in a van down by the river my parents feared I might become.
This time of year there are a number of great posts reviewing books from the year that was or suggesting books for the year ahead. The last thing you want to read is another Top Ten, but since you’re here, I’m writing on a few of my favorite books (cue Julie Andrews) – of recent memory. Hopefully they are books you will consider and they will be a blessing to you as they have been to me.
God’s Grace In Your Suffering – by David Powlison It seemed like there was a rush in 2018 of great books on grief and suffering. In my opinion, this is a good thing. This book by Powlison impacted me. He uses the classic hymn, How Firm a Foundation like a thread of encouragement and reference throughout the book. This book taught me suffering is not random chaos. If God allows suffering to happen, I will not go through it alone – He is with me. He is my firm foundation in the midst of the storm.
Jesus the King – by Tim Keller (also known as The King’s Cross) This is a book to be read around the Easter season for maximum impact. Keller does a great job of making such a wonderful, incredible, overwhelming truth like the totality of Jesus both personal and understandable. The way the author elaborates on who Jesus was and who He is draws the reader closer in their relationship with the Son of God. I was left with an indelible gratitude for my Savior along with a new knowledge of His life and times.
The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning This book is not for the faint of heart. Manning, while a devote Christ-follower, would never pretend to be Southern Baptist. If this is your first work of his to read, keep in mind he is writing with a worldview built on his time as a Franciscan priest. With all this in mind, perhaps it was just the season of life in which I read it but, this is one of my favorite books of all time. It is a fresh perspective for those of us born and raised in the Bible Belt. It stirs the heart and challenges the mind to deepen you commitment to discipleship of Christ and pursue healthy expressions of grace and spiritual disciplines – not robust religion.
Suburbianity by Byron Yawn Growing up, living, and doing ministry in the Deep South can be rivaled by complacency and the influence of the American Dream. Yawn tackles these temptations and challenges all of us who flirt with “easy Christianity.” It is not necessary for all of us to “move to a mud hut in Africa” (unless, of course, you’re being led by the Holy Spirit) to be considered valuable in the work of Kingdom advancement. However, it is imperative we all embrace our biblical calling to love God and love others – whether on Wall Street or Main Street. This book acknowledges the realities of being a Christian in America and fighting the temptations therein. It’s a book I would want everyone to read.
Built to Last by Jim Collins A few years ago, Good to Great, was on everyone’s to-read list. I thought I would “go rogue” and read something by Collins that wasn’t so popular. This book is written for leaders, not necessarily clergy. However, any Christ-follower – especially a leader – is wise to dissect and apply leadership principles from the “real world” – like Paul does writing about athletes, soldiers, and farmers. Built to Last is the best I have read for this practice. Collins compares and contrasts sets of companies to determine while they succeeded and possibly why the failed. For example, why is Wal-Mart the behemoth it has become while K-Mart, Sears, etc. are struggling to stay open? What did the leaders at Disney, Boeing, etc. do and when, why did they do it? The theme throughout the book is the priority of building, not just managing. Example: as a Christian leader or pastor, “do you want to merely tell time (keep up with the latest fad, “seeker friendly”) or build clocks (establish effective ministry long-term, making disciples)?” Easily one of my favorite books of all time.
Suggested online resources or magazines.
Table Talk Magazine
Intersect: Where Faith Meets Culture (Southeastern Seminary)