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Category: What I Read in (2018)

What I Read in September

September has seen me reach my 2018 reading goal of 52 books for the year. I’ve read some formative theology, some quality comic books, a few great biographies/memoirs, and even found a few fiction authors I’m going to get more of. Reaching this goal means I’ll be taking a break from posting what I’ve read for a while (more on that in my next post) but for now, here’s what I read in September.

Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter

Dr. Tom Schreiner has written an important book discussing the spiritual gifts, and whether or not those gifts have continued into today in a form that is consistent with the New Testament. His book is conversational, compassionate to those who hold a different conviction, and compelling in his unpacking of the Biblical text. A very helpful contribution to an ongoing controversy.
Read more of my thoughts here.

Even Better than Eden

I have a particular love for Biblical Theology. So when I heard of a book that traces not one, but nine wonderful themes through the pages of Scripture, I couldn’t get hold of it fast enough. I love the way that Guthrie traces from Eden to eternity so many wonderful, rich ways in which Scripture progressively reveals the ongoing activity of God the Redeemer through history.  I also love how Guthrie demonstrates how these stories powerfully shape our own stories, simultaneously offering transformation and hope to all of us who see life not going as planned. This is a tremendous, applicable, easy to read resource for every Christian.

Batman (DC Universe Rebirth) volumes 3-6

After the raging success of the first two Batman issues in the DC Universe Rebirth, volume 3 had a lot to live up to with the story arcs that Tom King was clearly developing for the long-haul. And I think he delivered. The darkness that haunts both Bane and Batman due to a tragedy in childhood provides a wonderful juxtaposition of reactions; Bruce fighting the darkness in order to see the light. What Bruce is willing to endure to save one life both glorifies and humanises him at the same time. Plus, I agree that David Finch was pretty much born to draw Batman comics.
Thanks to the local library, I have also managed to sneak in volumes 4, 5, and I’m currently reading 6.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

This is my new favourite book on all things sentences and semicolons. With chapters dedicated to the comma, the full stop, the semicolon, and more; I found myself laughing, cringing, and learning on every page. This helpful resource is also peppered with amusing examples of how not to do punctuation; plus arguments for and against stylistic choices like the Oxford comma. Highly enjoyable and educational to boot.

Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

Suffering isn’t a question of if but rather a question of when. There isn’t a person among us who has not suffered, or who will not one day experience the pain of loss, the sting of betrayal, or the weakness of their physical body failing. Writing out of his own life-altering suffering,
Tripp writes, “[t]here could be no more stunning declaration packed with more practical hope than Jesus’ words, ‘I am with you always.'” Tripp’s book is a gritty, street-level reminder that the hope of redemption is not just reserved for eternity but is a real, living, present hope; rooted in the fact that God is with you, in you, and for you right here, right now. This book packs a powerful dose of gospel courage as Tripp unpacks the traps of temptation that greet every sufferer and the comforts of grace that are available for those who fear God and trust their lives to his sovereign love and grace in the midst of difficulty. Tripp provides comforting truth for everyone who has suffered and solid gospel preparation for those who haven’t.

See what else I read in 2018:

 

What I Read in August

The Gospel Comes with a House Key

It’s true we are creatures who learn from story. As Butterfield recounts stories without end that demonstrate the messy, costly, rewarding ins-and-outs of what ‘Radically Ordinary Hospitality’ looks like, you will find yourself constantly convinced that hospitality is indeed the cornerstone of the Christian life. Sure, it means changing your budget to allow for extra meals for people, unexpected guests at your table, or taking care of a neighbour’s pet while they’re out of town. But it also serves to reveal Christ’s redeeming purpose in the world: making strangers into neighbours, and making neighbours into family.
This book will leave you thinking more deeply about what Christlike hospitality might look like in your home, and how you might consider making space in which hospitality can flourish.

Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Piper continually reminds me that I have no excuse for not taking the time that is necessary to read and understand the Bible. It is infintely worth my time to drop anything else in order to love God with my heart and mind in this way. I loved this book because it reminded me that the Bible is the only book in which I encounter the living God—and the primary means by which he speaks to me and answers me. If I want to hear him speak, I simply read. This book also served to remind me of my total dependance on God the Holy Spirit in order to understand what is written. While not a review, here’s a thought I posted before I had finished.

Beren and Luthien

The story of Beren and Luthien is a heroic tale mixed with unquenchable romance, danger, and noble sacrifice. But this wonderful tale was diminished in its delivery (in this book) by the endless discussions and interjections by the author (Christopher Tolkien) offering sidenotes, thoughts, and lengthy retellings of conversations that he had with the publishers, editorial decisions about the book that he made, how he poured over the combining of multiple manuscripts from his father’s work into one coherent whole. This made the book very hard to read; authors, never do this. A wonderful story, but disjointed due to real-life discussions that no reader would be seeking.

12 Faithful Men

We can all be greatly encouraged by learning more about great men of the faith. As Christians, persecution and hardship should not come as a surprise; and these men are no strangers to testing times. The faithfulness shown throughout these 12 testimonies not only points us to a God who is faithful in times of need, but also the reality of the dark times encourages us by recounting their failures right alongside their victories. We are not expected to be perfect in this life, but these 12 faithful men point with their lives to the one who is.

Mere Hope

Mere does not mean “barely”, but rather “true” or “real”. The “thicker” hope that Duesing would have us see is that inextinguishable flicker that God ignites in our souls to keep us believing in the prevailing power of his light even when we are surrounded by utter darkness. Presenting a solid biblical theology of hope, Duesing demonstrates this in four key ways: “Look down” at the good news of the gospel as our foundation, “look in” to Jesus Christ as the hope within us, “look out” to see the flourishing of hope shared among the nations, and “look up” to the focus of our hope both now and in the age to come. This book was a great encouragement, but it also served to reinforce that gospel foundation on which we stand firm in these trying times. Recommended.

See what else I read in 2018:

What I Read in July

July seemed to be a month of revisiting the fundamentals of the faith. With contributions from old theologians and new, these books were a valuable read and likely to be oft-referenced resources in the future.

Being a Christian

Allen writes with a love that comes from his head as well as his heart about how the Christian life extends into every area of our existence. Containing chapters about the gospel and marriage, money, work, rest, the church, and more, Being a Christian is equal parts convicting and encouraging.

 

Mere Christianity

With a very secure position on my ‘Top 10 Books Every Christian Should Read’ list, I was amazed at how much of this book was already familiar to me. Familiar because—as one who has grown up in church my whole life—I’ve heard many of these sentences and illustrations used in sermons and pastoral conversations many times over (with great effect) without knowing their source. With the content divided into super-short readable chapters, Lewis speaks with an economy of words that communicates complex concepts in powerful, practical chunks that I can take away and mull over later. Mere Christianity will make you think about God, and yourself in relation to God, and that’s exactly where we should all begin.

The 5 Solas Series: Faith Alone

You could be wondering why so much needs to be written on the doctrine of justification and why it matters. Enter Schreiner who writes a compelling and informative tour of the development and discussion around Sola Fide. Because this is such a huge topic, Schreiner had to focus on breadth and not depth; meaning that every page is packed with pointers to additional content for those who want to go deeper. My favourite chapters were discussions around Justification as defined at the Council of Trent, the Catholic/Protestant differences, and two chapters on the New Perspective on Paul with a focus on the work of N. T. Wright, because that’s how I roll.

Fusion

Searcy’s book is full of strategies to turn visitors to your church into fully engaged members. These include frequent free gifts for visitors, gathering information repeatedly through connection cards, regular contact through handwritten letters, and intentional follow-ups. I know this model is highly acclaimed and has worked well in many places, but I would caution that it runs the risk of over-commercialising the church and attracting people for the wrong reasons. This book should be read with a Bible in the other hand to ensure a good balance is maintained.

Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot

In our Fifty-Shades-of-Orange-is-the-New-Kardashian world, Mo Isom (New York Times bestselling author) writes with clarity, conviction, and brutal honesty about her struggles with a distorted picture of sex, and the damage it wrought on her body, mind, and soul. But sex is God’s idea; and through powerful testimony of her encounter with an even more powerful truth in the person of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, Mo calls on the church to not simply declare the “do not’s” of sex but to articulate a full, beautiful picture of the intimate and Christ-exalting image that sex is. It’s time to invite Jesus back into the bedroom.

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding & Teaching Theology

Gregg R. Allison (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Perhaps not since Packer’s Knowing God has there been a book that I have been so grateful for in terms of taking multiple systematic theology textbooks and distilling them down into short, powerful, understandable chapters on the core doctrines of Christianity. This book should be read by every Christian, but it is also designed to be used as a launch-pad for studies (each of the 50 truths include a section on how to enact that doctrine, as well as how to teach it). This is a fantastic resource for any shelf, especially to quickly capture key truths in a few short pages for those who don’t have a desire to dig deep into larger systematic theology texts. (Unless that’s your jam…then go for it.) Allison’s book is well written, well sized, well delivered. Five stars.

See what else I read in 2018:

What I Read in June

Growing Down

I enjoyed this latest work from Michael Kelley, and would absolutely recommend adding it to your library when it comes to thinking about discipleship, as well as your own posture towards walking in the obedience of faith. I took some quality highlights away but at the same time it felt like The Curious Christian and Do More Better (which are both excellent) got together and had a baby; it had its own personality and new things to offer but it seemed quite obvious who the parents were. The central idea is that in order to become more Christlike, we need to become more childlike—that is, dependent. The book is thoughtful, engaging, easy-to-follow, and definitely unpacks a necessary change in thinking when it comes to what it looks like to grow in grace.

How to Ruin Your Life

David was called a man after God’s own heart, and he gave us wonderful, timeless Psalms like Psalm 23. But David wasn’t perfect and sometimes the lessons we learn from his life are those of what not to do. When it comes to his tragic downfall through the taking of Bathsheba, Geiger points to three lessons; three traits that David failed to handle correctly that led to his ruin, and could just as easily lead to mine too.

Read my full review.

The Warden and the Wolf King (Wingfeather Saga, Book 4)

The ending brought tears to my eyes. Here Andrew Peterson brings a wonderfully well-rounded conclusion to the great story of the Throne Warden, Song Maiden, and High King of the Shining Isle. In what could very likely be my current favourite fiction book to date, the rich, immersive world and the deep, engaging characters constantly filled my imagination while I made my way through the largest book of the saga. To be honest, while I love Peterson’s songs and lyrics, I love his books much more. Five stars.

The Pastor as Scholar & the Scholar as Pastor

Since well before I graduated from seminary, I’ve known that the path God put me on would lead me to be either a scholar or a pastor. But are these roles really to be thought of with this binary distinction? With over 30 years in their fields, Pastor Piper demonstrates that his head has never truly left the academy, and Professor Carson shows that his heart has never truly left the church.
This book is important, and personally very helpful as I think about where God is calling me and shape that should take.

What are you reading?

See what else I read in 2018:

What I Read in May

Just Open the Door

Jen Schmidt calls hospitality a cornerstone of the Christian faith. It isn’t the responsibility of those specific few who possess the ‘gift’ of hospitality, nor is it all about having the perfectly set table and immaculate house. Schmidt seeks to reframe our understanding of Christian hospitality through taking a look at Jesus (who, as our model of hospitality didn’t even own a home). Her book is full of wonderful, heartfelt stories and practical suggestions, but most of all she shows that demonstrating Christ’s love in our everyday is no more complicated than simply opening our door.

Kiss The Wave

Dave Furman knows a thing or two about disability, depression, and dark nights of the soul. His latest work is a real, raw look at what those times look like, what developing a solid theology of suffering can do for you in those times, and the immeasurable joy that is available to the Christian when they see their circumstances as being from God, with God, and ultimately for God. Kiss the Wave is loaded with gospel and insight into the life of the suffering Christian. This book pulls no punches, and I loved it.

How to be a Writer

With 20 years experience teaching Writing at Harvard Divinity School, Barbara Baig believes that you don’t have to be born a writer; you can become one. Her book has so much to offer those who would seek to develop better writing craft, and the book is full of methods, tools, and practices for writing suited to any genre. From high-level collection of content and the practice of freewriting, through to the development of a Zero Draft and recognising how to engage with different categories of readers, I’ve already built her practices into my current writing. I’m looking forward to her second book: Spellbinding Sentences.

Crazy Busy

DeYoung wrote this book for me. As someone who has a hard time saying no to ‘the good’ when I should only be saying yes to ‘the best’, Crazy Busy helped remind me of the need for vision and focus in choosing how to divide my time. I also need to be told continually that rest isn’t simply something good for our mental, spiritual, and emotional health, however, it’s actually an act of faith and dependence on the God who works when we don’t. A timely reminder for today.

See what else I read in 2018:

What I Read in April

Ready Player One

This is another one of those “they’re making a movie, so I should probably read the book” decisions. Due to a heavy reading load this month in other areas, I grabbed this one from Audible to give my eyes a break. Narrated by Wil Wheaton (who was brilliant), Ready Player One turned out to be a highly entertaining story, filled with more 80s pop references than I ever thought possible. It was a fun, emotive, creative world with the right amount of unyielding, unbeatable villain and highly satisfying for a child of the 1980s. I enjoyed the (audio)book so much that I probably won’t see the movie for fear of disappointment.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

How could you possibly add to The Princess Bride? You can’t of course unless you’re Cary Elwes and you write a book of memories about the whole journey from film creation, shooting, and reunions while participating in the 25th anniversary reunion with the cast. Then, make it an audiobook narrated by Cary, and mix in interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner. This book was an absolute blast. With story after story from multiple members of the cast (read by them), this audiobook is a must-have for fans.

Christianity and the Transgender Phenomenon

I’m in the process of preparing to teach a short lesson at my local church about transgender. I’ve been researching heavily in preparation for this highly sensitive topic. While I feel the weight of the issue, it’s actually about people. And so this presentation is aimed at growing an awareness of the main arguments, but equally about developing a good biblical ethic and a gospel-centered framework for communicating the truth in love. If you’re local and would like to attend, you can see the details of the talk here.
     
See what else I read in 2018:

What I Read in March

The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down

R. Albert Mohler’s latest work (Feb 2018) is a spectacular journey through the most important prayer for Christians ever prayed. He skillfully responds to the lament that many Christians today read the Lord’s Prayer too automatically—without thought to its meaning—by closely examining the power and significance of each and every line of the prayer. As the framework that Jesus provided for how we are to think about prayer, Mohler takes the time to unpack what it reveals to us about the God to whom we pray, ourselves as those praying, and how we should live in light of our relationship with him.

Supernatural Power for Everyday People

Far from focusing on the miraculous, supernatural displays of God’s presence and power that might have popped into your mind when you first saw the title, Wilson’s latest work looks at how God the Holy Spirit is building his Church. It provides a spectacularly practical, down-to-earth perspective on the real work of transformation in the life of the ordinary Christian by the Spirit through the gospel. Full review coming soon.

Transgender

This small book about one of today’s biggest issues gave some excellent advice on how Christians should respond (and not respond) as the culture around us attempts to change the design of their creator, preaching a gospel that says truth is subjective and the individual has the highest value and final say. A helpful, insightful, and loaded resource packed into less than 100 pages.

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders Book 1)

It’s been a few months since I finished the Farseer Trilogy, and that’s been an advantage, because the second trilogy by Robin Hobb introduces a whole new cast, delivered in a whole different writing style, in a whole different part of the same world. Because of this—and having grown accustomed to the style and pace of Farseer—the first few chapters felt a bit like trudging slowly through deep mud. But one thing wasn’t a surprise; the effort is well worth it, and Hobb rewards your persistence with an exhilarating read that begs you to immediately pick up book 2.

This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel

I’m so glad I grabbed this as an audiobook (read by Trevin). This is Our Time is a book for any Christian who wants to understand western culture more in light of the gospel. It could be one of the most eye-opening books you will read this year. Not only does Wax address the common narratives that we live our lives by, but goes larger to society, asking the question “How can we be true to the gospel in a world where myths and false visions of the world so often prevail?”

See what else I read in 2018:

What I Read in February

The Emotionally Healthy Leader

Scazzero continues to tell the story of who I am, where I’m at, where I want to go, and who I want to be. He doesn’t simply write intellectually, but his insights forged in the crucible of experience offer so much value with regard to what it means to be emotionally mature; self-aware, others-focused, and to holistically lead by listening to emotions and perceiving needs within your team. These are all things I needed to understand, because I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Green Lantern: New Guardians, Vol 1: The Ring Bearer

When Kyle Rayner becomes a Green Lantern, the last thing he expected was that he would also be chosen by the red, indigo, yellow, blue, pink, and orange rings of power too. Featuring Sinestro, Archangel Invictus, and a supermassive white hole that has formed a space/time tear to another universe, this issue sees Rayner make a journey from the safety of earth to the citadel of the Guardians of the Universe, and beyond. This is one heck of a story.

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture

This book was written with a pastoral heart that has seen first-hand the agony of failure in ministry and the burnout that comes at the end of not knowing when to say “no” and rest. But it also speaks as one who possesses the peace found through re-evaluating and re-calibrating life’s rhythms around regular days, weeks, and seasons of humbly accepting our own God-given limitations. Murray writes so clearly and with such compassion that every chapter is like he has his hand on my shoulder, lovingly encouraging me to embrace the gospel and develop strategies so that I can finish the race with my faith intact. Read regularly.

Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel

This punchy little book captures in just a few chapters exactly what you’d hope for from a book in the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series. I didn’t feel like its aim was to contribute anything new to the current position on the Biblical view of marriage, but if you’re looking for something that covers all the important bases in one accessible and quick read, then look no further.

Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death

The way in which Russ Ramsey reflects on encountering his mortality and the limitations of his own brokenness is the story of us all. His immense pain and confusion intersected with his faith in a healing and all-knowing God, and the lessons were long and hard for him, his family, and his congregation. Loving God, loving others, and loving yourself during these trials like these gets as broken and remade as Ramsey’s body. But this story has something to offer all of us, because it’s about all of us.

See what else I read in 2018:

What I Read in January

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

It became clear to me very quickly why this book made so many Best of 2017 lists. Chapters 1 & 2 were so convicting, but simultaneously so eye-opening that I felt like I should stop and go over them again. Doing an excellent job of evaluating these 12 Ways, Reinke does an outstanding job of remaining impartial; not ever being pro-phone or anti-phone, simply laying down the facts and observing the ways culture has changed for good or ill. Read my full review here.

Batman/The Flash: The Button

Batman finds on his cave wall the bloody smiley-face button of the Comedian, the iconic symbol of Alan Moore’s Watchmen series from the 1980s. The story-behind-the-story is set for the upcoming Doomsday Clock twelve-issue series, which has just begun. The Button sets the stage for Doomsday Clock with a story of Bruce Wayne and Barry Allen investigating the source behind the appearance of this button. It’s very hard to talk about anything without giving spoilers, but it can be said that this was the most popular DC release in a long time, with multiple reprints needed as copies flew off the shelves.

The Monster in the Hollows

Finally I’ve got around to this, the final book in the trilogy of The Wingfeather Saga. These books go on my All Time Best list, and I look forward to reading them with my kids as soon as they’re old enough. As with the previous two books, Peterson is a skilled world-builder; drawing the reader in to every sight, sound, and smell. The book moves quickly, but with so much detail that every experience is shared and felt. The new places are wonderful, the creatures terrible, and the journey of self-discovery for the High King of Anniera is gritty and glorious.

Making All Things New

When it comes to the pain brought about by sexual sin, Jesus has come to renew both the wayward and the wounded, the sexually immoral and the sexually victimized. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that his grace extends healing to those suffering in sin, and to those who have suffered because of sin. In order to rightly renew sexuality, David Powlison writes that first “we must have a vision for what it is intended to be, for what’s gone wrong, and for how to bring about transformation.” In Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken, Powlison presents that better way—a way where victims of betrayal or assault can live a better life than just “Survivor”, and those currently trapped in dark and hidden sins can walk towards the Light and be free from shame.
Read my full review here.

 

What have you been reading?