“Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.” (Charles Spurgeon)
At the end of the year, I like to think back over those books that have inspired, instructed, and shaped me. Below are my top 10 reads from 2017 (in order), along with a short description from the publisher. I have greatly enjoyed being challenged by each of these…especially #1, which is hands down one of the most riveting biographies I have come across yet!
1. Martin Luther: The Man who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Eric Metaxas)
On All Hallow’s Eve in 1517, a young monk named Martin Luther posted a document he hoped would spark an academic debate, but that instead ignited a conflagration that would forever destroy the world he knew. Five hundred years after Luther’s now famous Ninety-five Theses appeared, Eric Metaxas, acclaimed biographer of the bestselling Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, paints a startling portrait of the wild figure whose adamantine faith cracked the edifice of Western Christendom and dragged medieval Europe into the future. Written in riveting prose and impeccably researched, Martin Luther tells the searing tale of a humble man who, by bringing ugly truths to the highest seats of power, caused the explosion whose sound is still ringing in our ears. Luther’s monumental faith and courage gave birth to the ideals of liberty, equality, and individualism that today lie at the heart of all modern life.
2. Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel (Ray Ortlund)
Marriage is so much more than a human institution. The Bible teaches that marriage was created by God and reveals an eternal mystery–the mystery of the gospel. In this way, marriage paints a picture of our salvation in and through Jesus Christ. Ray Ortlund traces the Bible’s teaching on marriage from Genesis to Revelation–revealing how marriage stands at the center of God’s redemptive purposes for the world.
Mark Sayers is a gifted cultural analysist who combines his biblical knowledge, curious mind, and pastoral heart to offer a guide to the times. Strange Days will help Christians slow down, get their bearings, and follow God with wisdom and tact in this wild world. For anyone feeling frightened, discouraged or confused in this globalised world, Strange Days is a great comfort. It will help you make sense of the rapid changes, while reinforcing what Jesus said long ago, “Take heart, for I have overcome the world.”
“Sixty years ago I found myself distracted,” Eugene Peterson writes. “A chasm had developed between the way I was preaching from the pulpit and my deepest convictions on what it meant to be a pastor.” And so began Peterson’s journey to live and teach a life of congruence—congruence between preaching and living, between what we do and the way we do it, between what is written in Scripture and how we live out that truth. Nothing captures the biblical foundation for this journey better than Peterson’s teachings over his twenty-nine years as a pastor. As Kingfishers Catch Fire offers a never-before-published collection of these teachings to anyone longing for a richer, truer spirituality. Peterson’s strikingly beautiful prose and deeply grounded insights usher us into a new understanding of how to live out the good news of the Word made flesh. This is one man’s compelling quest to discover not only how to be a pastor but how to be a human being.
Now is a time of testing, when believers will learn the difference between shallow optimism and Christian hope. However dark the shadow falling over the West, the light of Christianity need not flicker out. It will not be easy, but Christians who are brave enough to face the religious decline, reject trendy solutions, and return to ancient traditions will find the strength not only to survive, but to thrive joyfully in the post-Christian West. The Benedict Option shows believers how to build the resistance and resilience to face a hostile modern world with the confidence and fervor of the early church.
How can Christians pursue and implement the miraculous gifts of the Spirit without falling into fanatical excess and splitting the church in the process? In Practicing the Power, pastor and author Sam Storms offers practical steps to understanding and exercising spiritual gifts in a way that remains grounded in the word and centered in the gospel. With examples drawn from his forty years of ministry as a pastor and teachers, Storms offers a guidebook that can help pastors, elders, and church members understand what changes are needed to see God move in supernatural power and to guard against excess and abuse of the spiritual gifts. If you long to see God’s Spirit move in your church and life, and aren’t sure why that isn’t happening or where to begin, this book is for you.
7. The Life of Edward Irving: Forerunner of the Charismatic Movement (Arnold Dallimore)
The ministry of Edward Irving in London, from its dramatic beginning in 1822 to its tragic close in 1834, when the preacher was only 42, became a talking-point of the 19th Century. Strangely, the same spiritual issues which were raised by Irving’s ministry have again become prominent in recent years. This Life of Irving is an easily read and moving story, told with sympathy and honesty. It also seeks to deal accurately with the extraordinary claims which became associated with Irving’s later ministry. Certainly Irving drew the affection of most of the evangelical Christians who knew him. R.M. M’Cheyne, for instance, could write, ‘I look back on him with awe, as on the saints and martyrs of old’. Yet the distinctive features of Irving’s ministry caused considerable alarm among the evangelicaly churches. The author reveals the reasons why, as well as giving a gripping portrait of this remarkable man.
It’s the hot topic of the moment. Christians, the church and the Bible seem to be out of step with modern attitudes towards homosexuality. And there is growing hostility towards those who hold a different view. So is God homophobic? And what do we say, and how do we relate to to both Christians and non Christians who experience same-sex attraction. In this short, simple book, Sam Allberry (who is himself, same-sex attracted) wants to help confused Christians understand what God has said about these questions in the scriptures, and offers a positive and liberating way forward through the debate.
8. Revival Year Sermons 1859 (Charles Spurgeon)
“The times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord have at last dawned upon our land,” so Spurgeon wrote at the end of 1859. Throughout the Sundays of that year–perhaps the greatest and most fruitful in his long ministry–he had preached in London to a congregation of some 8,000 people besides addressing, almost daily, vast multitudes in different places. The sermons in this paperback are all taken from 1859 and show the vigorous, fervent proclamation of the gospel which made Spurgeon’s preaching what it was.
10. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Greg McKeown)
The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.
BONUS: The Spurgeon CSB Study Bible While the ESV is still my preferred version to preach from (for now!), I have switched over to the CSB Spurgeon Study Bible for my devotional reading…because, well, Spurgeon.
“Charles Spurgeon has been called the “Prince of Preachers.” He preached to over 10 million people in his lifetime, and his written sermons have impacted millions more. The CSB Spurgeon Study Bible features thousands of excerpts from Spurgeon’s sermons, chosen and edited by Alistair Begg in order to bring the richness of the Prince of Preachers’ insights into your daily study of God’s Word.”