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.
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.
Quotes from The Christian Faith by Michael Horton
“A mystery is inexhaustible, but a contradiction is nonsense. For example, to say that God is one in essence and three in persons is indeed a mystery, but it is not a contradiction. Believers revel in the paradox of the God who became flesh, but divine and human natures united in one person is not a contradiction. It is not reason that recoils before such miracles as ex nihilo creation, the exodus, or the virginal conception, atoning death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Rather, it is the fallen heart of reasoners that refuses to entertain even the possibility of a world in which divine acts occur” (Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, 101).
“Faithful reasoning neither enthrones nor avoids human questioning. Rather, it presupposes a humble submission to the way things actually are, not the way we expect them to be. Faithful reasoning anticipates surprise, because it is genuinely open to reality. If reality is always exactly what we assumed, then the chances are good that we have enclosed ourselves in a safe cocoon of subjective assertions. Unbelief is its own form of fideism, a close-mindedness whose a priori, untested, and unproven commitments have already restricted the horizon of possible interpretations” (Horton, The Christian Faith, 102).
“Ethical imperatives are extrapolated from gospel indicatives. The gospel of free justification liberates us to embrace the very law that once condemned us” (Ibid., 640).
“In the Greek language we must differentiate between the indicative mood, which is declarative (simply describing a certain state of affairs), and the imperative mood, which sets forth commands). For example, in Romans Paul first explains who believers were in Adam and their new status in Christ (justification) and then reasons from this indicative to the imperatives as a logical conclusion: ‘Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life…’ (Ro 6:13). He concludes with another imperative (command), but this time it is really an indicative: ‘For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace’ (v.14)” (Ibid., 649).
“Where most people think that the goal of religion is to get people to become something that they are not, the Scriptures call believers to become more and more what they already are in Christ” (Ibid., 652).
“Although we cannot work for our own salvation, we can and must work out that salvation in all areas of our daily practice. When God calls, ‘Adam, where are you?’ the Spirit leads us to answer, ‘In Christ’ (Ibid., 662).
“It is crucial to remind ourselves that in this daily human act of turning, we are always turning not only from sin but toward Christ rather than toward our own experience or piety” (Ibid., 663).
10 Quotes on Preaching
“Expository preaching is the best method for displaying and conveying your conviction that the whole Bible is true… A careful expository sermon makes it easier for the hearers to recognize that the authority rest not in the speaker’s opinions or reasoning but in God, in his revelation through the text itself… Expository preaching enables God to set the agenda for your Christian community… Expository preaching lets the text set the agenda for the preacher as well… Exposition can prevent us from riding our personal hobbyhorses and pet issues… A steady diet of expository sermons also teaches your audience how to read their own Bibles” (Timothy Keller, Preaching, 32-38).
“Expository sermons help us let God set the agenda for our lives…. Secondly, expository preaching treats the Bible as God treated it, respecting particular contexts, history and style of the human authors” (Peter Adams, Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching, 128).
“An expository sermon may be defined as a message whose structure and thought are derived from a biblical text, that covers the scope of the text, and that explains the features and context of the text in order to disclose the enduring principle for faithful thinking, living, and worship intended by the Spirit, who inspired the text” (Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 31).
10 Quotes from John Piper’s book, Future Grace
“The commandments of God are not negligible because we are under grace. They are double because we are under grace” (John Piper, Future Grace, 168).
“The way to fight sin in our lives is to battle our bent toward unbelief” (Piper, Future Grace, 219).
“The faith that justifies is a faith that also sanctifies… The test of whether our faith is the kind of faith that justifies is whether it is the kind of faith that sanctifies” (Ibid., 332).
“The blood of Christ obtained for us not only the cancellation of sin, but also the conquering of sin. This is the grace we live under—the sin-conquering, not just sin-canceling, grace of God (Ibid., 333).
“The problem with our love for happiness is never that its intensity is too great. The main problem is that it flows in the wrong channels toward the wrong objects, because our nature is corrupt and in desperate need of renovation by the Holy Spirit” (Ibid., 397).
“The role of Gods Word is to feed faith’s appetite for God. And, in doing this, it weans my heart away from the deceptive taste of lust” (Ibid., 335)
“It is this superior satisfaction in future grace that breaks the power of lust. With all eternity hanging in the balance, we fight the fight of faith. Our chief enemy is the lie that says sin will make our future happier. Our chief weapon is the Truth that says God will make our future happier. We must fight it with a massive promise of superior happiness. We must swallow up the little flicker of lust’s pleasure in the conflagration of holy satisfaction” (Ibid., 336).
“There are no closed countries to those who assume that persecution, imprisonment and death are the likely results of spreading the gospel. (Matthew 24:9. RSV)” (Ibid., 345).
“Perseverance in faith is, in one sense, the condition of justification; that is, the promise of acceptance is made only to a persevering sort of faith, and the proper evidence of it being that sort is its actual perseverance” (Piper, Future Grace, 26 quoting Jonathan Edwards).
“Humility follows God like a shadow” (Ibid., 85).
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).
20 of the best books I read in 2019
Here are twenty of my favorite books that I read in 2019. I think I only read three fiction books this year. I need to fix that. I plan to read quite a bit more fiction next year. Anyhow, here’s some of my favorites… (in no particular order)
- Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
by Ravi Zacharias
- Safely Home by Randy Alcorn
- Apologetics at the Cross: An Introduction to Christian Witness by Josh Chatraw and Mark D. Allen
- Them: Why We Hate Each Other–and How To Heal by Ben Sasse
- How Long O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil by D.A. Carson
- Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
- Alienated American: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse
by Timothy P. Carney
- Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story by Christopher Yuan
- Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope by Matthew McCullough
- The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr by Clayborne Carson
- Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow’s Success by John C. Maxwell
- Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
- Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller
- Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness by Jeffrey D. Arthurs
- An Unhurried Leader: The Lasting Fruit of Daily Influence by Alan Fadling
- Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
- Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, wife of Charles H. Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr.
- To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson
- Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
Out of all the books I read last year, Remember Death by Matthew McCullough, is the one I would suggest you read over all the rest.