This past year was a good year for reading for me. I enjoy reading and have started listening to audio books while I run or work out. For those of you familiar with strengths finder I have input, ideation and learner in my top five strengths meaning that I spend a lot of time collecting information and processing information.
I don’t want to assume that everyone is like me and enjoys reading, but I would like to recommend a few of the books I took in this past year. In all, I read 43 books this year including commentaries for my sermon preparation. But I would like to give you a year end review of the seven books that stood out above the heap.
1. Systematic Theology (Grudem)
I read this book by breaking it down in a reading plan over the first 3 months of 2015. I found it very helpful. I do not anticipate that many people will read it cover to cover, but it is an excellent resource that I would encourage all Christians to grab at least as a reference. Grudem comes at the scripture and theology from a conservative but honest perspective. He will not make everyone excited, but his theological perspectives challenged me at some points and helped solidify my thoughts on others.
2. Unpacking Forgiveness (Brauns)
I actually read this book for a theology class that I audited at GRTS last winter. But it has stuck with me as a very valuable book on a subject that the church has relegated to pop psychology. Before reading this, I never considered how unbiblical my views of forgiveness actually have been.
You may not agree with everything he says, but he makes a strong Biblical case for a more robust view of forgiveness. He also challenges much of the pop psych that has come to define the view of forgiveness in our culture which quite honestly has been the main working definitions I have often heard in the church.
Since forgiveness is a subject that every single human must deal with . . . It might be beneficial to have a well thought out view of what we mean when we speak of forgiveness.
3. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Peterson)
I must confess that Eugene Peterson has become my home boy. I have now read his book “the Pastor” three times in the past three years and it still moves me every time. He has put into words what I feel deeply in my soul about my calling. But this book and the title phrase that has been refining my heart for the past three years has been a much needed correction to my flighty and easily distracted heart.
Without Peterson’s writing coming to me at the right time, I may not be a pastor. But this book is not about pastors. It walks through the Psalms of Ascent in a flowing way while striking with a surgical precision at the cancer of impatience and dissatisfaction that seems so common to American Christians and to me.
4. Ordinary (Horton)
I read this book twice this past year . . . Once for myself and once chapter by chapter with a group of other ordinary guys. Similar to “a long obedience” this book addresses our tendency to celebrate the extraordinary instead of the ordinary.
But since faithfulness is most often found in the ordinary, Horton’s book helped define for me the target of faithful rather than extraordinary. Again, I think this book would be beneficial for all to read.
5. Journey to Joy (Moody)
This is the only book that I read in conjunction with a sermon series as a commentary that I am recommending. It is a non-technical commentary on the Psalms of Ascent and it is full of deep and rich application of those 15 Psalms!
Josh Moody is concise and very helpful in his insights of these Psalms that tackle the real day in and day out of a life moving toward God.
6. The Great Divorce (Lewis)
This is the only work of fiction that I read this year that made this list. (I also read the fiction book “The Martian”. But it was too profane despite its well written story line.)
Lewis has a way of using fiction to draw out theological concepts that are both subtle and deep. The nature of the human heart outside of grace is a major theme of this book. I would not recommend reading it to understand the nature of heaven and hell since this fictional trip to heaven is merely a vehicle to convey the nature of humanity. But Lewis offers some very powerful metaphors for the subtlety of wickednesses that are hidden in the heart of humanity.
7. This Momentary Marriage (Piper)
I like to listen to John Piper more than I like to read John Piper. But I have found that listening to his book on audible is a good compromise. This book gives a fabulous perspective on marriage that goes over the top (in Piper fashion) to show that marriage is a very deep theological model of Christ and His church.
This is such a needed message in a world that has lost all sense of mooring on the subject of marriage! And I need go no further than the preponderance of divorce to suggest that we have lost this deep theological perspective of what marriage is meant to be.
So that wraps up a summary of my reading highlights for 2015. I read more books than this and if you are interested in a complete list . . . I can let you know everything that I read this year. Just don’t judge me when you find out that three of them take place the Star Wars universe . . .
Also, feel free to leave in the comments here or on Facebook your own recommendations.