My Ten Favorite Books I read in 2021
Here are my ten favorite books that I read in 2021:
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
It was my second time reading it but enjoyed it more this time.
Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self
I found Trueman’s account very helpful and accessible. I appreciated the sweeping nature of the book, taking into account court cases, philosophers, pornography, and entertainment. Not exhaustive but a fair and I believe accurate overview. Overall, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self was definitely one of the best books I read all year.
J.P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism
Moreland gave a helpful and accessible explanation of the problems with scientism.
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath transports you back to the sad and seemingly hopeless story of a family of “Okies” during the Dust Bowl. It paints a picture of what life was like for a lot of people and thereby cultivates empathy and understanding of other people and their varied journeys.
Paul David Tripp, Lead
Tripp is one of my all time favorite authors and now he has written one of my favorite books on leadership. I have a bunch of highlights in this book, perhaps more than any other book I read this year. Tripp offers a lot of timely wisdom for leaders in Christian ministry.
Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism
Perhaps the only thing I think is a little unhelpful about this book is its title. When you read the title you might think the book is calling evangelism into question. That, however, is not the purpose of the book. The book is about the important place that questions play in evangelism. I found the book quite helpful.
Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation
I read a few books on the book of Revelation this past year and this one sticks out to me as the most helpful. I’m thankful for Richard Bauckham and his scholarship.
Sam Alberry, Why does Gos care who I sleep with?
Alberry wrote a very relevant and helpful book. I hope this book is read widely. I think a lot of people will be helped by it.
Timothy Z. Witmer, The Shepherd Leader
I recently transitioned to Care Pastor at my church and found this book very helpful in looking at what the Bible says on pastoral care.
Vivek H. Murthy, Together
I read the lion’s share of this book in 2020 but only recently finished it. It is a timely and well written book on the importance of relationships.
I try to track my reading on Goodreads. If you want to “be friends” on Goodreads you can do so here.
Why read? An argument for the importance of reading
Why read? Why am I committed to reading? For one, words matter. They matter to me and they mattered to Jesus and Paul too. I think words and reading should matter to you too.
Jesus apparently read or at least retained what He heard as a kid. He listened to the teachers and asked them questions and “all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers” (Lk. 2:47). So, words mattered to Jesus and especially God’s words.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He fought off the temptation by quoting Scripture (Matt. 4). Jesus clearly knew the Scriptures. He quoted from Deuteronomy chapter 6 verse 13, verse 16, and chapter 8 verse 3.
Jesus read in the in the synagogue (Lk. 4:16) as was the custom on the Sabbath (Acts 15:21).
Paul in Romans 3:10-18 quotes from ten different passages. And he did it from memory. It is unlikely that he would have looked up those passages in a nearby scroll. He certainly didn’t look it up in a concordance in the back of his Bible. No. He would have read those passages and memorized them. Scripture, however, was apparently not the only thing that Paul read and could quote. He also quoted popular poets (Acts 17:28).
Paul was in prison in Rome and he was writing his dear friend Timothy. He asked Timothy for a few items. First, we see he wants him to come before winter (2 Tim. 4:21) and bring his coat. Second, we see the importance of reading along with warmth, Paul wants his books and parchments too (2 Tim. 4:13).
Reading was important for the Apostle Paul.
You should too
Reading allows us to learn and glean from people in places and times we otherwise wouldn’t. Reading can facilitate wisdom. C.S. Lewis talks about the importance of prioritizing time-tested books.
I think there is a lot of wisdom in what Lewis said. I think our first priority should be the reading of Scripture. The Bible is the best-selling book of all time and the most translated book of all time. And Scripture gives us “the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68).
So, read books but especially read the Bible. Reading is important because God had revealed Himself and His will through revelation.
How to read more?
The number one advice I have is to prioritize reading. And deprioritize other lesser things, like social media. If reading is important, make sure it’s important in practice. Also, check out my advice “10 Ways to Read More Books in 2021.”
Read. Jesus and Paul the Apostle did.
 It’s important that we realize that the tempter also knows Scripture. In Matthew 4:6 the tempter quotes from Psalm 91:11 and 12 to try to cause Jesus to sin.
*Photo by Seven Shooter
10 takeaways from Vivek H. Murthy’s book Together
Being connected in community is important. Murthy’s book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, concurs. Below are some quotes I appreciated from his book.
“The values that dominate modern culture… elevate the narrative of the rugged individualist and the pursuit of self-determination. They tell us that we alone shape our destiny. Could these values be contributing to the undertow of loneliness” (Vivek H. Murthy, Together, p. xxi).
“Social connection stands out as a largely unrecognized and underappreciated force for addressing many of the critical problems we’re dealing with, both as individuals and as a society. Overcoming loneliness and building a more connected future is an urgent mission that we can and must tackle together” (Murthy, Together, p. xxvi).
“People with strong social relationships are 50 percent less likely to die prematurely than people with weak social relationships… weak social connections can be a significant danger to our health” (p. 13).
“Few of us challenge our cultural norms, even when their influence leaves us feeling lonely and isolated” (p. 95).
“Building… bridges for connection may never have been more important than it is right now” (p. 96).
“If you ask people today what they value most in life, most will point to family and friends. Yet the way we spend our days is often at odds with that value. Our twenty-first-century world demands that we focus on pursuits that seem to be in constant competition for our time, attention, energy, and commitment. Many of these pursuits are themselves competitions. We compete for jobs and status. We compete over possessions, money, and reputation. We strive to stay afloat and to get ahead. Meanwhile, the relationships we claim to prize often get neglected in the chase” (p. 98).
“Social media… fosters a culture of comparison where we are constantly measuring ourselves against other users’ bodies, wardrobes, cooking, houses, vacations, children, pets, hobbies, and thoughts about the world” (p. 112).
“Many factors play into… polarization, social disconnection is an important root cause” (p. 134).
“Even as we live with increasing diversity, it’s easier than ever to restrict our contact, both online and off, to people who resemble us in appearance, views, and interests. That makes it easy to dismiss people for their beliefs or affiliations when we don’t know them as human beings. The result is a spiral of disconnection that’s contributing to the unraveling of civil society today” (p. 134).
“When I think back on the patients I cared for in their dying days, the size of their bank accounts and their status in the eyes of society were never the yardsticks by which they measured a meaningful life. What they talked about were relationships. The ones that brought them great joy. The relationships they wish they’d been more present for. The ones that broke their hearts. In the final moments, when only the most meaningful strands of life remain, it’s the human connections that rise to the top” (p. 284).
*Photo by Robert Bye
10 of the Books I Plan to Read in 2021
The 10 Most Popular Posts of 2020
Here are the ten most popular posts of 2020.
What if Satan wants to destroy the Church more than the country?
In the book of Revelation the Church is not called to react to the End or the antichrist by moralistic, militaristic, or political means. The Church is called to return to Messiah Jesus, remembering that those who continue faithful to the End will receive the “crown of life.” The way of resistance of evil, is the way of Christ. That is, loving Christ Jesus, and loving others. Taking up our crosses and following Jesus and loving others, even when it hurts, is a sure sign that we don’t and won’t have the “mark of the beast.”… Read More.
Statistics and Comfort in Calamity
Some sources are saying that the mortality rate of COVID-19 looks to be 2%. However, it is too early to say. The percentage will be bigger or smaller depending on various factors (such as the age of the people infected, access to the needed medical treatment, etc.). I think we should acknowledge a few things about the statistic. First, 2% looks like a small number. And it is. At least, relative to a larger number… Read More.
Why do Black Lives & LGBTQ+ Lives Matter?
Why do black lives and LGBTQ+ lives matter? This is an important question because some people have views that don’t support the idea of lives mattering. For example, Charles Darwin, the most famous proponent of evolution titled his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle of Life. And in his book, The Decent of Man, he says, “The Western nations of Europe… now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors… Read More.
We Harvest what we Plant
“If you sow to the flesh you will reap from the flesh, reap corruption. But if you sow to the Spirit you will reap from the Spirit, reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:8). Sowing and reaping are not things most of us are really familiar with, let alone sewing and weeping. So, what does it mean to sow? To sow means to plant seeds. What does it mean to reap? To reap means to gather, to harvest what was planted… Read More.
Unrest and Our Rest
I have friends that are cops. I have friends that are black. I have friends that think COVID-19 is a hoax and friends that I couldn’t coax out of their house if I tried.
Friends, we are in a time of unrest; economic, social, political, and physical. I’m not trying to be dour or dark. I believe that is an accurate articulation of our current time. And yet people are pining for peace and rest. Where is this peace and rest to be found?… Read More.
The Ten Best Books I Read in 2020
Check out the top ten books I read in 2020 here.
Sometimes life gives you a gift that you want to lose but you have to use.
Do you view singleness as a gift? Sometimes we receive gifts that we don’t want to use, don’t know how to use, or don’t even want to possess. I am afraid many of us feel this way about singleness. We don’t know what to do with it, we don’t know why we’re stuck with it, and we just want to get rid of it.
The Apostle Paul saw singleness as a gift… Read More.
Living as Canceled Christians
It happened to the elect exiles to whom Peter wrote. Our voice can vanish too. We are not immune. We can be canceled.
But are we ready? Can we stand in the storm or will our house be blown to smithereens? Will it crumble on the sand that it is laid or is its foundation deep and solid? Will our life vanish and wither? Where is our source of life?… Read More.
A few helpful resources before you vote…
I highly suggest that you check out Jonathan Leeman’s article: “What Makes a Vote Moral or Immoral? The Ethics of Voting.” And I found Justin Taylor’s article “The Case Against Pro-Lifers Voting for Joe Biden” helpful too. Taylor quotes John Piper: “No endorsement of any single issue qualifies a person to hold public office. Being pro-life does not make a person a good governor, mayor, or president. But there are numerous single issues that disqualify a person from public office.”… Read More.
Why did Jesus flip over tables?
“And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple” (Mark 11:15-16).
Why did Jesus drive out those who sold and bought in the temple? Why did He flip over tables? That seems pretty extreme. Why was He so worked up?… Read More.
How to Evaluate Christian Leaders?
Recently, I’ve seen a lot of Christian leaders be criticized or criticize, and even call other Christian leaders names because of disagreement on such things as politics, the pandemic, and policies regarding justice. And not surprisingly, those who are not leaders are also jumping into the fray and lobbing grenades too.
How many people actually think through the appropriate way to evaluate Christian leaders?… Read More
*Photo by Aaron Burden
The Ten Best Books I Read in 2020
Here are my ten favorite books that I read in 2020 (they’re listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name):
- D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12–14
- Kevin DeYoung, The Ten Commandments: What They Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them
- David Kinnaman, Faith for Exiles: Five Ways to Help Young Christians Be Resilient, Follow Jesus, and Live Differently in Digital Babylon
- Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue: Traditional Moral Wisdom for Modern Moral Confusion
- Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, On Death and Dying
- Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion
- Reggie McNeal, The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church
- J.P. Moreland, Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power
- Gavin Ortlund, Finding the Right Hills to Die on: The Case for Theological Triage
- David Platt, Before You Vote: Seven Questions Every Christian Should Ask
And five runner-ups:
- Andy Crouch, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power
- Albert Mohler Jr., The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church
- Tony Reinke, Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age
- Deepak Reju, On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church
- Mark Dark Vroegop, Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament
Here are my favorite books from last year.
10 Ways to Read More Books in 2021
I read 70+ books in 2020. Below I’ll tell you how.
“If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” I don’t think you should cheat. Cheating is wrong. But you should, however, make the most of every advantage you have as best as you can.
That’s what I seek to do with reading. I take advantage of everything I can.
I read all sorts of books for all sorts of reasons. Depending on the reason for reading and the type of book, I will read it in a different way. Some people shun audiobooks. But, I personally don’t get that. There are all sorts of reasons for reading and all sorts of ways that people retain things best.
As I said, I think we should wisely take advantage of everything we can as best as we personally can.
Here are nine things I’ve used to my advantage:
Time is the most precious commodity there is. Even little bits of gold have value, how much more small slots of time!
You can get a lot read when you make the most of small time slots. Waiting can easily turn into productive reading. I always have a book on hand. And my wife often listens to audiobooks while doing dishes or laundry.
2) Old fashioned books
Always have one with you. You never know when you’ll be able to get a few paragraphs or a few pages read.
3) Kindle app on my phone
It’s always with me. I always have a book I’m reading on Kindle.
4) Hoopla or Libby
Hoopla and Libby are free apps and one of them should be available through your local library. I’ve used them both at different times to listen to tons of books.
Audible is an audiobook service. My wife and I had a membership for a long time. It was great.
ChristianAudio is an audiobook service that provides Christian audiobooks. You can signup for a free audiobook a month.
Speechify is an amazing app. It was created by Cliff Weitzman, someone with dyslexia, to help people with dyslexia.
With Speechify you can take a picture of a page in a book and it will convert it to audio. I will sometimes buy a book on Kindle and take a screenshot of each page of the Kindle book and load it on to Speechify. In this way, I can listen to the book.
I can also still make notes. If something sticks out to me that I want to capture I’ll take a screenshot on the Speechify app. Then I’ll search the keywords from the screenshot on the Kindle book and highlight and make any notes I want to make.
Speechify has been a huge blessing to me. I read very slowly but when I use Speechify I can read over 650 words per minute. Speechify probably triples my reading speed but I’m still able to retain what I read and make notes.
8) A community of book lovers
I have multiple friends (including my wife!) that love to talk books and encourage the reading of good books.
Goodreads is a social media site for reading. Goodreads allows you to track and review books you’ve read as well as receive recommendations from friends. You can see my Goodreads account here.
10) Pocket (very helpful but not for books)
Pocket is an app that allows you to save articles to your “pocket.” It’s a great way to save and organize articles. But, the thing I enjoy most is that it has a function that allows you to listen to articles.
10 Quotes from Jonathan Pennington’s book, Jesus the Great Philosopher
I appreciated Pennington’s book. He did a good job showing that “Christianity is more than a religion. It is a deeply sophisticated philosophy” (Jonathan T. Pennington, Jesus the Great Philosopher: Rediscovering the Wisdom Needed for the Good Life, 159).
Here are 10 quotes that stuck out to me:
“When we try to live without knowledge of physics and metaphysics—how the would is and how works—then we are foolish, not wise, living randomly, haphazardly, without direction or hope for security, happiness, or peace” (Pennington, Jesus the Great Philosopher, p. 23).
“The Bible is addressing precisely the same questions as traditional philosophy” (p. 53).
“The Old and New Testaments teach people to act in certain ways, knowing that cognitive and volitional choices not only reflect our emotions but also affect and educate them” (p. 120-21).
“Without intentional reflection, we will live our lives without direction and purpose. Or worse, we will live with misdirected and distorted goals” (p. 124).
“Relationships aren’t an add-on to life, they make up our life” (p. 134).
“Jesus himself emphasized that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). This does not mean Christians are free to ignore this world, but instead it frees Christians to relate in a gracious and humble way, knowing their citizenship is ultimately something more and greater and different” (p. 166-67).
“The reason Jesus was so infuriating to both religious and government leaders was not because he was taking up arms and trying to overthrow governments but because his radical teachings were so subversive to society. Jesus was subversive because he sought to reform all sorts of relationships. In his teachings and actions, Jesus continually subverted fundamental values of both Jewish and Greco-Roman society” (p. 172).
“Christianity is a deeply intentional and practical philosophy of relationships” (p. 173).
“Unlike sitcom relationships, the reality is that our lives are broken through sin—the brokenness not only of sin that has corrupted creation itself but also of personal acts of evil, foolishness, and harm. Thus, the Christian philosophy’s vision for relationships within God’s kingdom is not naive or idealistic” (p. 181).
Back to Virtue by Peter Kreeft
I recently read Peter Kreeft’s book Back to Virtue. Kreeft is a Roman Catholic philosopher, theologian, apologist, and a prolific author. He is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King’s College.
Here are some quotes from Back to Virtue that stuck out to me:
“We control nature, but we cannot or will not control ourselves. Self-control is ‘out’ exactly when nature control is ‘in’, that is, exactly when self-control is most needed” (Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue, 23).
“Nothing is so surely and quickly dated as the up-to-date” (Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue, 63).
“It is hard to be totally courageous without hope in Heaven. Why risk your life if there is no hope in Heaven. Why risk your life if there is no hope that your story ends in anything other than worms and decay” (Kreeft, Back to Virtue, 72).
“The only way to ‘the imitation of Christ’ is the incorporation into Christ” (Ibid., 84).
“There are only two kinds of people: fools, who think they are wise, and the wise, who know they are fools” (Ibid., 99).
“Humility is thinking less about yourself, not thinking less of yourself” (Ibid., 100).
“God has more power in one breath of his spirit than all the winds of war, all the nuclear bombs, all the energy of all the suns in all the galaxies, all the fury of Hell itself” (Ibid., 105).
“We can possess only what is less than ourselves, things, objects… We are possessed by what is greater than ourselves—God and his attributes, Truth, Goodness, Beauty. This alone can make us happy, can satisfy the restless heart, can fill the infinite, God-shaped hole at the center of our being” (Ibid., 112).
“The beatitude does not say merely: ‘Blessed are the peace-lovers,’ but something rarer: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’” (Ibid., 146).
“There is only one thing that never gets boring: God… Modern man has… sorrow about God, because God is dead to him. He is the cosmic orphan. Nothing can take the place of his dead Father; all idols fail, and bore” (Ibid., 157).
“God’s single solution to all our problems is Jesus Christ” (Ibid., 172).
“An absolute being, an absolute motive, and an absolute hope can alone generate an absolute passion. God, love and Heaven are the three greatest sources of passion possible” (Ibid., 192).
The ten most popular posts of 2019…
An Easter Devotional
I wrote the blog series, “Psalms of our Suffering Savior,” to help us “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (2 Tim. 2:8)…
A Brief Theology of Emotions
We all have emotions. How often do we consider emotions from a biblical perspective though?… Yet, what better place to turn than God’s word! So, what does the Bible say about emotions?…
Holding on to Hope: 10 Actions Steps to Fight Depression
1. Call out to God
There are all sorts of Psalms in Scripture in which the psalmist calls out to God in distress. The Bible encourages us to call out to God and be real with Him about where we’re at…