A gift says something about what the giver thinks of you or the needs you have. Tim Keller once humorously reflected on this:
“Imagine opening a present on Christmas morning from a friend – and it’s a dieting book. Then you take off another ribbon and wrapper and you find it is another book from another friend entitled, Overcoming Selfishness…"
What message has the giver sent you? They think you're fat and obnoxious. Great! Grand! Wonderful!
At Christmas God gave humanity a gift: a Savior. What does the gift of a 'Savior' imply? It implies our problem is: we need saving.
Our greatest need isn't political, physical, or entertainment otherwise God would have sent a politician, doctor, or musician or artist. God sent us a Savior. We need saving...but from what?
Sin. And the enduring consequences of them (Rev. 1:5).
You might think Christianity is about being a good, moral, religious person. But if you think that is sufficient to save you from sin, Jesus isn't a Savior to you. He's a teacher and moral example. Jesus didn't come into our world to show you how to save yourself. He came into the world to actually save you. This is why the gospel isn't advice, it's news. And being a Christian isn't about conforming to advice, it's about celebrating, rejoicing in, and following the main character of this news: Jesus Christ.
Reading good, Christ-honoring books is essential to a healthy spiritual life. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). Providing lists like this is meant to encourage you in this pursuit. This list is comprised of the best books I read this year not necessarily published this year.
Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace - Timothy Lane
I'm a worrier. How we diagnose a problem foreshadows what we think the solution is. If we say the problem is sociological, the solution we'll prescribe will also be sociological. And so on. This book will help you diagnose worry as if the Bible is really God's Word. If you don't believe the Bible is up to the challenge of addressing this issue, don't read this book.
By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me - Sinclair Ferguson
If you're a Christian, always read books about the grace of God. We need it! We don't generally default into grace - we go the other way. Sinclair Ferguson is ALWAYS worth reading! This one is no exception.
10. A Gospel Primer: Learning to See the Glories of God's Love - Milton Vincent
I gave away 5 copies of this one in my church. It's worth it's weight in gold. Vincent does a masterful job of working out the gospel into the practicalities of life thereby showing us why the gospel is truly the "A to Z" of Christianity.
9. Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear - Scott Sauls
God's way with us isn't typically how we are with others - especially "the other." How can we learn to extend God's grace to sexual minorities, prodigals, dysfunctional family members, and others? Sauls does a masterful job of helping to soften our hearts to "the other."
8. Unlimited Grace: The Heart Chemistry That Frees from Sin and Fuels the Christian Life - Bryan Chapell
Chapell is a gift of God to the church. This title really does capture what his book is all about. He compelling shows us how the main plot line of Scripture is God's grace and how God's grace fuels the Christian life. This one will refresh your soul.
7. None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (And Why That's a Good Thing) - Jen Wilkin
Jen has quickly become a respected and sought-after voice in the gospel-centric world. This book is a powerful example of why that is. This book really is the best book on applying the attributes of God to daily life. If you haven't read it. Read it!
6. Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community - Brett McCracken
McCracken hit a home run with this one. He did so by addressing a topic that needed some attention: the "dream church syndrome." Brett makes a compelling case that most of us want to conform our churches in such a way that they make us feel comfortable. McCracken's thesis, however, is that comfort stifles growth. Instead, we need to learn to embrace the uncomfortableness of church because only then will we thrive. Warning: if you're fighting to make your church comfortable to you, don't read this book.
5. God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity - Andrew Walker
Gender identity is a hot topic in today's cultural climate and it's not going away. Walker put hours upon hours of research into this one. For now, it's the gold standard in helping Christians process this with a delicate balance of "truth and grace" simultaneously. This book isn't about winning a debate. It's about helping Christians walk alongisde those journeying through gender dysphoria.
4. Faith and Feelings: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life - Brian Borgman
God made us emotive creatures. The problem today is that, for many Christians, emotions are sovereign. "Whatever I feel must be indicative of what's right and true." Borgman digs into the Scriptures to show us where emotions come from and how they can be trained. Your emotions matter to God, so read this book!
3. Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls - Dave Harvey
Much like McCracken's book, Harvey addresses a topic in desperate need of attention: tough love for the wayward. One of the most frequent pastoral challenges I've faced is helping people deal with the wayward who isn't open to confessing sin or working towards reconciliation. What do you do with an unfaithful spouse or a rebellious child who won't turn from their sin? Read this one!
2. God's Very Good Idea: A True Story of God's Delightfully Different Family - Trillia Newbell
If there's anything 2017 taught us it's that racism is alive and well - sadly. The brilliance of Newbell's book is twofold. First, she defines the problem and solution biblically. Second, this is a children's book. I think she has thought way ahead in authoring this one. She understands that the seeds of racism are often scattered in the fertile soil of childhood. Parents, you would do well to purchase this and add it to your bedtime reading regimen.
1. This is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel - Trevin Wax
I wish I could mandate my congregation read this one. It's brilliant. Wax is the next generation's Tim Keller. This book takes cultural artifacts such as the smart phone, Hollywood, politics, sex, marriage, shopping, etc. and he helps us identify the longing in the human heart we want each of these to satisfy. He then helps us see why these fall short and how the gospel is actually the perfect solution to our longings. Wax's cultural exegesis is astute and the application of the gospel to our longings spot on. Please read this one in 2018!