2014 Top Books

I suppose a “better late than never” is in order. I recently came across a 2013 Top Ten list of books I compiled for a friend on my personal blog and it made me miss the thinking involved in compiling these lists for what I read in the past year. So, I determined I ought to make one for last year, almost halfway through this year.

I typically try to have a ‘canon of theologians’ list – the goal being to read a different theologian in church history each month – to read through every year, but outside of Christian books, I also try to vary my reading. However, on this outlet I’ll limit the list to my favorite Christian books I read in 2014. Some of these will be new releases, while others are classics that I try to re-read occasionally. Other than the first book on the list, these will be in no particular order.

The King in His Beauty by Thomas Schreiner

By far the best book I read this year. Beauty is an appropriate superlative for this book. Schreiner has done an excellent job of compiling a theology of the Bible. I am in particular agreement with his thesis of “God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s reign” but for me the reason this book is beautiful is because of its content, and how this thesis unfolds through the book. The theme is a constant reminder of everything that points to “the King in His beauty.” What a beautiful hope we have as Christians. And so not only is this book doctrinally rich, with much to learn from it, but even more importantly it will make you pause and worship. I’m thankful the church has such a gift.

The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus by Alan J. Thompson

This is an excellent work chronicling the events of Acts that primarily focuses on the work of Christ. Of course the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost is an important event in Acts, but Alan Thompson doesn’t want us to forget – as we often do – that Christ is in his “session” during this time in history as well. The Lord is Risen and is reigning, these are ultimately His acts.

Summary of Christian Doctrine by Louis Berkhof

Berkhof is one of my favorite theologians. His complete Systematic Theology is probably the work I reference most often. This summary is a great, concise resource as well. It’s a short treatment of key dogmatic issues, and is a pleasure to read. Another benefit is the opportunity to read straight through book hitting every topic. Something you most likely don’t do with a full systematic. It helps us “remember.” Something we desperateley need in order to continue to grow in areas of the Christian faith. This would be a great place to start if you’re interested in reading Berkhof. It’s also a great book to giveaway.

Expositional Preaching by David Helm

The first book I read in the 9Marks “Building Healthy Churches” series, and I’m not sure I’ve read a better introduction to expositional preaching. It’s a quick read, but it makes a great case for what is called expositional preaching. It is a style that is making a comeback in recent years, and many would argue it’s the only style of preaching that we should do regularly. Helm gives many good scriptural examples and application of what it is and how we serve our churches by preaching this way.

Behind the Ranges by J. O. Fraser

An amazing story. I was not familiar with Fraser before coming across this work and I was blown away with his pioneering work in China with the Lisu people. His endurance and patience with the work among the people is something that we should all be in awe of, and is something that I ask for more where we serve. We need more J. O. Fraser’s in the church today.

The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It seems an antiquated word in our world today. But how utterly and completely scriptural it is. Maybe the reason we need to continue reading these types of works from the Puritans. They had a real grasp of sin that eludes many of us in our modern world. Watson will guide you through this doctrine from the Word, encouraging true repentance. The day of the Lord is now.

The Presence of the Future by George Eldon Ladd

Living in the “already and not yet.” Ladd is a well known Baptist theologian who talk much of the Kingdom from Scripture. This book is a treatment of eschatology and its primary focus on Christ who ushered in the end times, but explains the time has not come to fulfillment. I enjoyed this book because of my interest in this area of biblical study.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

A classic work. One that has endured and one that I love reading. It’s truly a journey walking with Christian – the book’s protagonist – through his life. If you haven’t taken this journey through the Christian life before, you need to take a walk with Bunyan this year. The edition linked to above is the Banner of Truth edition and is a beautiful copy you can keep for years to come.

Evangelism by Mack Stiles

The second book in the 9Marks series I read this year. I have read Stiles – who often writes on evangelism – before and wasn’t disappointed. This book is very accessible and is a good defense of why the church needs to be evangelizing It’s also and encouragement to do so. I was looking for resources to give away as gifts to pastors over here and found some great ideas in this series. Evangelism is an area that is tragically neglected in our churches today.

On the Incarnation by Athanasius

I was encouraged by a couple of friends on Twitter to read this during the holiday season, and what a beautiful read at Christmas time. The incarnation being the true miracle of the season. God becoming man is something that we should constantly be in awe of and try to remind ourselves often. This book will help do that. It’s also refreshing to read something of such antiquity.

That concludes my list.

What books were your favorite from last year since you’ve had four months to think about it, and why?

A Year’s Readings

I have finally been motivated to post “My Canon of Theologians” list for 2012. This has been some time in the works, and is now finally complete. I stumbled upon this idea a while back thanks to a Credo Magazine post from Luke Stamps. He had gotten the idea from a talk Mark Dever gave a few years ago at the Sovereign Grace Leadership conference. My friend Jacob has recently done a similar post.

So, here’s what I propose for the coming year:

January – Patristics: Early Christian Writings

February – Anselm, Cur Deus Homo, from Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works

March –  Reformation: Luther, The Bondage of the Will

April – Reformation: Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion

May – Puritans: Sibbes, The Bruised Reed

June – Puritans: Bunyan, Saint’s Knowledge of Christ’s Love, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

July – Edwards: Sermons

August – Baptists: Spurgeon, Morning and Evening. Dagg, Manual of Theology

September – Princetonians: Warfield, Inspiration and Authority of the Bible

October – Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression

November – Barth, Church Dogmatics 1.1

December – Evangelicalism: Carl F.H Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority v.2

And that should wrap up the year. I’ll also try to work in a few contemporary authors along the way. This is of course my ideal reading plan. As Dever said in his talk, he almost never actually gets everything read. So, with my reading for class and a baby on the way, I’m sure I’ll never finish. It’s still nice to have a goal.

What would you add?

 

My Top 10 of 2011

As the title suggests the books on this list were not all published during this past year. These are simply my favorite books that I read this year. They are in no particular order. Enjoy!

The Christ of the Prophets by O. Palmer Robertson

This was the best book I read this year. While I had to read it for class, I’m glad that it was on the reading list. It’s an amazing book. This book sparked and fueled the fire for my interest in the Old Testament, for which I am eternally thankful. Even though, it was confined to the prophets, it gave me a new understanding of the importance of our understanding the context of the OT. I’m convinced that we should know the OT as well as the writers of the NT knew it.

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

This is one of two biographies that made the list this year. I enjoy reading biographies because of the gritty reality of the stories they tell that awaken me to a world outside of my own context. They also encourage me in my walk and fuel my desire to grow deeper in my relationship with Christ as these heroes of the faith were so committed to doing. And this book does all of those things. Metaxas is a captivating writer,  it’s not difficult when you have Dietrich Bonhoeffer as you subject matter. He led a fascinating life amidst the uprising of Hitler and become a key proponent in plotting to overthrow the tyrant.

Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman

Another excellent publication by 9Marks. I enjoyed this book because of its practical application to church life. It’s a book that pastors, elders, leaders, and church members should get in their hands. Leeman’s focus is tracing the Word of God throughout the life of the church. As this is single most important aspect of the church, it’s a worthy and beneficial read.

John MacArthur by Ian Murray

Biography number two. I thoroughly enjoyed Murray’s writing. This is a brief, captivating look at the ministry of MacArthur. I appreciate the focus that has defined MacArthur’s ministry, dedication to preaching the Scripture. It’s really a good “real life” follow-up to Leeman’s book in some ways. There are definitely differences, but overall a good study and a good read.

On The Incarnation by Athanasius

This book was definitely not written this past year. As one of the early church fathers, Athanasius wrote profoundly on the God becoming man. This book is very doxological and worshipful. I enjoyed reading the ancient thoughts, and insights that emerged shortly after the life of Christ.

Holiness by J.C. Ryle

I understand now why this book is referenced so much and why lately it’s been mentioned as a topic about which there is much confusion over in the church, namely questions about sanctification. Ryle is an easily accessible author, and is very matter of fact in his writing. This is a challenging and convicting book but is one that we must confront. Not only once, but over and over again. Pick it up. You will be changed.

Lilith by George MacDonald

Oh, the beauty of masterful fiction writers. I had gone much of the year without a diet of fiction, and I was feeling starved. This book filled me. MacDonlad, I believe, is unmatched in his imagination and is simply a beautiful writer who can weave the most complex themes into the patchwork of a world in which you find yourself easily understanding. Like you’ve grown up there. Immerse yourself.

Rediscovering the Church Fathers by Michael Haykin

As Haykin states in his introduction, this book is needed for the modern church. To the church who think it started yesterday a rich history lesson is in store. A scholar, indeed, Haykin introduces us to a select few of the early church fathers. I listed this book because I think it’s one that we need to take note of. It’s a good read, and is somewhat biographical in nature, but it also relates the lives of these men to the formation of the thought of the early church, an interesting study for sure.

The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

This book blew me away. Chesterton is a master. I was introduced to him through his series of “Father Brown” stories and wanted to read something else of his. This book did not disappoint. You will not want to put it down and Chesterton will have your mind on the edge of its seat straining to understand the world he’s pulled you into.

Don’t Call It a Comeback ed. by Kevin DeYoung

This one was a surprisingly good read. I’d started it early this year and just recently picked it back up to finish it. I’ve been loving it. The list of authors assembled for this book is very good. Many of whom you will not have read much by. The chapters are also short, but packed full. The conciseness with which the authors had to approach some very weighty issues made them say only what had to be said. Making for rich essays on evangelical identity. You’ll enjoy this read.

 

There are definitely a few more that I could’ve included but this was a good sampling. I’d love to hear some thoughts on books that made your list.

Until next year….

My Favorite Books of 2010

Alright. Another “Favorite” list for 2010. These were my favorite books that I read in 2010. Note: Not all of these were actually published in 2010.

The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders
I think this is one of the best books of 2010. Sanders does an excellent job of revealing the role of the Holy Spirit in evangelicalism. Read my review for a few more thoughts.

To The Golden Shore: The Life Of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson
I’m working on Bonhoeffer now which would definitely make this list, but Anderson’s biography on Adoniram Judson was the best biography I read this year. It’s an amazing story of his life in Burma and the awesome ways in which God used him to further the kingdom. It’s definitely an encouraging book and one that gets you excited.

Romans: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary by R.C. Sproul
This is a great “Commentary”. It’s definitely written in a more conversational style than a technical commentary would be, but that’s what makes it great. It’s vintage R.C. Sproul. He takes you through Romans in a way that is accessible yet deeply theological. This book was the source of much growth this year.

The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
The subtitle for this book is the best way to describe to it, I think, “the ministry mind-shift that changes everything.” It’s definitely that. It will break down the methods and “traditional” ways of working in ministry and refocus your attention on what’s really important. A must read from this year. Also look for the next installment The Archer and the Arrow.

The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Witmer
This was a good book for church leadership. Witmer does a great job of using the shepherding analogy to show how leaders need to guide the flock. It’s great to read with the above book to really focus on the role of discipleship.

Jonathan Edwards on the Good Life by Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney
This is a great, well-written series on the theology and writings of Jonathan Edwards. I used it for a small group setting this year and was a great tool to work through to really understand what Edwards taught in his sermons and writing.

Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller
This book was a good read. Keller is a great writer, and I love the way he draws out and sees scripture related to our culture. It is a convicting book as well, uncovering areas of in our lives that we have become so comfortable with, we didn’t even know they had become an idol. Read it.

Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles
The best 2010 book on evangelism that I read. Stiles does a great job revealing what’s behind evangelism and what’s important to it. It’s not a book on methods, it’s much more important, read my other thoughts here

And that’s it. Bring on 2011. Though, I’ve still got quite a few from 2010 left to read. Whew!