Monday, January 4, 2016

Best Books I read this year - Ministry and Faith

I had the privilege of reading many good ministry and faith books this year.  While I will highlight 8 of the best below, I probably could have easily had 12 books in that list.  These books have encouraged me and challenged me in many ways in my life and ministry.

Here are the best books I read this year (in no particular order), followed by the rest:

Holiness by Grace:  Delighting in the Joy that is our Strength by Bryan Chapell.  I read this book with my associate Chuck.  Chapell does a great joy exploring how God's command to holiness intersects with God's grace poured out into our life in Jesus.  A challenging and encouraging book.

What does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality by Kevin DeYoung.  Homosexuality and the Bible is a very controversial topic nowadays.  Christians have many divergent views on the topic.  Kevin DeYoung carefully goes through every mention of homosexuality in the Bible, giving the reader a balanced and sane interpretation.  He also provides answers to many of the arguments Christians hear from both believers and non-believers about why homosexuality should be accepted by Christians.  Written in a very gentle, understanding tone, it is worth a read to get a solid biblical perspective on this challenging topic.

The Enemy Within:  Straight Talk about the Power and Defeat of Sin by Kris Lundgaard.  This was a tough book to read.  It is difficult to be reminded how relentless our sin nature is in opposing the things of God in our life.  Lundgaard lays bare a tough truth - that each of us have an enemy within that will oppose every step we take toward obedience and holiness.  Thankfully Lundgaard does not leave us with just bad news, but gives good, theological teaching on countering the influence of the sin nature in our lives.

Closing the Window:  Steps to Living Porn Free by Tim Chester.  This fall I began teaching a men's Sunday School class on purity, especially in response to the plague of pornography that many men struggle with.  As a result, I read a number of books on the subject over the summer.  Chester's book was the best of them.  Theologically wise and spiritually challenging, my only disappointment with the book was that the long chapters did not set themselves up well for a Sunday School class.

Finally Free:  Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert.  Finally Free was the second best book I read on purity this summer.  Lambert starts with a great chapter on grace, and then gives a series of practical chapters on ways we can battle for purity in light of the grace of God poured out into our lives.  I recommend Chester and then Lambert for anyone struggling with purity issues in their life.

Gospel-Powered Humility by William Farley.  Bill Farley gave a seminar for men in Missoula this fall, so I sought out some of his books, even though I could not attend the seminar.  Gospel-Powered Humility is a wonderful exploration of how the gospel, accurately understood and preached, should counter our sinful pride and produce a God-honoring humility in our lives.

Extravagant Grace:  God's Glory Displayed in our Weakness by Barbara R. Duguid.  Extravagant Grace was easily the best book I read this year.  It was also easily the toughest book I read this year.  Duguid's book is full of straight talk about grace and sin.  Unmistakably honest, she lays bare her own struggles and victories, consistently reminding the reader that God's grace is indeed extravagant and transformational.

Outrageous Mercy:  Rediscovering the Radical Nature of the Cross by William P. Farley.  I just finished this book the other day.  Outrageous Mercy is a wonderful exploration of the many ways the cross bridges the gap between a holy God and sinful men and how its truths apply to every area of the Christian's life.

2nd Tier Books, very good but just short of great:
The Legacy of Sovereign Joy by John Piper
On the Grace of God by Justin S. Holcomb
Your Jesus is Too Safe:  Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior by Jared Wilson
The Irresistible Church: 12 Traits of a Church Heaven Applauds by Wayne Cordeiro
Cries from the Cross: A Journey into the Heart of Jesus by Erwin Lutzer
Hide or Seek:  When Men Get Real with God about Sex by John Freeman
Expositional Preaching:  How We Speak God’s Word Today by David Helm
The Peacemaking Pastor:  A Biblical guide to Resolving Church Conflict by Alfred Poirier
Jesus on Trial:  A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel by David Limbaugh
They Smell Like Sheep, vol. 2 by Lynn Anderson
Burning Hearts:  Preaching to the Affections by Josh Moody and Robin Weekes
The Storytelling God:  Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables by Jared Wilson
Trusting God, Even when Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges
Renaissance:  The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times by Os Guinness
8:28 – Unlocking God’s Promise by Bryan Hughes
What is Biblical Theology?  A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism and Patterns by James M. Hamilton Jr
Church History in Plain Language, 4th edition, by Bruce L. Shelley
You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis and Lisa Chan
The Grace of God by Andy Stanley

3rd Tier books, good but mildly disappointing:
Finding Hope in the Last Words of Jesus by Greg Laurie 
The Seven Last Words from the Cross by Fleming Rutledge
Wired For Intimacy:  How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William K. Struthers

4th Tier - very disappointing:
Cross-Shattered Christ:  Meditations on the Seven Last Words by Stanley Hauerwas

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