In terms of reading, 2019 was a leaner year for me. I found myself starting more books than I finished (the great problem of all voracious readers!). Still, there were some great reads to be had last year, so without further ado… here are my favorite books that I read in 2019. Enjoy!
Is this it? By Rachel Jones
(The Good Book Company, 208 pages)
This book helped me immensely and is a great resource for anyone struggling to find meaning among the daily grinds of life and career post-college. It focuses on the quarter-life crisis often experienced by many millennials, which is real and not something to jeer at or downplay. It is especially recommended for those still in college as it paints a good picture of what feelings young adults might expect after graduation.
Rachel knows her audience perfectly (generally those 35 and under) and she speaks to them as peers with great empathy. She provides ample information about the quarter-life crisis for those not familiar with it, which is helpful to pastors and ministers who might have anyone in their congregations experiencing it.
Also, the book is biblically sound and draws out some wonderful lessons from scripture to encourage those who feel lonely, disengaged with life, or are overwhelmed with responsibilities in the early years of adulthood.
After reading Is this it? I walked away with a greater thankfulness to God for His understanding of my situations and struggles in adapting to life’s responsibilities. I was encouraged that I was not alone in the fight. Many people experience the same emotions.
Meeting Jesus: The ‘I Am’ Sayings of Christ by R.C. Sproul
(Banner of Truth, 88 pages)
The late great R.C. Sproul might just have been one of the clearest and most concise Christian writers of the past century. His hallmark lies in his ability to convey deep spiritual and theological truths in an easy to understand manner. His talents are again on full display in Meeting Jesus.
Everyone should study the attributes of God at some point in their Christian walk. One of the best ways to complement that type of study is to learn about what Jesus says about Himself. Sproul helps readers do just that by looking at seven “I am” sayings of Jesus. Examples include lessons about Jesus being “the door”, “the good shepherd”, and “the true vine” just to name a few.
It’s a clear and joyous read that helps readers understand Who Jesus is all in under 100 pages.
Augustine of Hippo: 45th Anniversary Edition by Peter Brown
(The University of California Press, 568 pages)
Peter Brown’s biography on Augustine has long remained the de facto source about the famed theologian’s life and works. After reading it, I agree.
Brown covers everything here and while it can be a tedious read at times, due to its academic persuasion, you do come away knowing more about Augustine’s life, works, and thought development. All of which is the objective if you want to read this type of book in the first place.
The 45th Anniversary Edition is the most recent version. It contains an epilogue at the back, which updates some of Brown’s previous views on Augustine from when he originally wrote the book in the 1960s.
Important to note is the epilogue, which is a double-edged sword of sorts. On one hand, it updates some information throughout the book and does an excellent job of synthesizing Brown’s overarching views of Augustine. However, Brown mentions a great deal about how his previous views could have been better. It’s an odd blend but I do not think it takes anything away from the actual core of the book, even if Brown might have changed his views a bit over time.
If you want to know about Augustine, including what made him tick, and the impact he has had on the church and world history, this book is for you. However, it will take time to complete.
Born After Midnight by A.W. Tozer
(Moody Publishers, 168 pages)
Tozer was a giant among giants in 20th-century evangelism. His preaching, which took place near Wheaton college, is often standard reading for seminary courses.
Thankfully, Moody Publishers has many of his works in print. While they are all often great reads, Born After Midnight might be my favorite yet.
Despite his grand reputation, Tozer is surprisingly easy to read and comprehend. His penchant for living a life in tune spiritually with the Holy Spirit and his focus on sanctification is on full display here. Also on display is his customary style, which challenges readers to always strive for more in their Christian life.
While each of the chapters is a bit different from the next (one of the best chapters teaches on how to deal with the devil) the overall theme is that we must continually be more spiritually-minded. We must also act in ever greater accordance with God’s will for us as new creations in Him. It’s solid Tozer and as such is a must-read.
The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read (but is too embarrassed to ask) by Christopher Ash
(The Good Book Company, 128 pages)
Do you desire to know more about the roles and responsibilities of your pastor? Do you want to learn how to make him feel more valued? What about wanting to understand him better? This book is a quick and easy primer that answers all of those questions and more.
Ash, a former pastor, explains the needs of pastors and gives readers ample examples of how they can better understand and help those whom God has set over their care.
Especially helpful is the opening section entitled: “Pastors Are People Too: A Tour of The Pastor’s Hall of Faith”. This chapter profiles different pastors by highlighting their backgrounds, what led them to the church, and a bit about their personalities. It paints an excellent and full picture of each pastor. This helps demonstrate to readers in the process that each pastor is unique in outlook, expectations, and in personalities.
Not all pastors grow up in the church and not all go to seminary. Some have made great sacrifices and walked away from great careers to preach. The more church members can view their pastors as whole people, the healthier congregations will be. For all of this and more, I found this a welcomed and timely read.
Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin
(Crossway, 240 pages)
After hearing lots of positive buzz about this book I decided to check it out and like many others, I found it to be exceptional.
In the book, Rebecca McLaughlin addresses twelve difficult questions that non-Christians and Christians tend to bring up regarding Christianity. For example, “How could a loving God allow suffering?” and “Doesn’t Christianity crush diversity?”.
At its heart, it’s a five-star apologetics book. I love apologetics and this book stands with the giants of the craft. However, what makes it soar is that it’s recent (it was released in 2019) and it feels fresh. This is because Rebecca draws on current studies that help shed light on some incorrect assumptions people (including believers) have been having about Christianity in recent years.
For instance, there has been much chatter in the U.S., as of late, about the decline of Christianity in America. While there is some truth to this, reality paints a much brighter picture. As the global church is growing in ways unimaginable, many new U.S. immigrants are devout Christians.
It also draws on new arguments and topics, as well, and handles them with expert care. The chapters on suffering and homosexuality are excellent.
Rebecca pulls no punches when she dives into the topic of same-sex attraction within society and within the church. I found that part of the book to be both timely and highly relevant. In my opinion, too many churches brush this topic under the rug. In reality, helping people overcome same-sex attraction, when they desire it, is something that needs to be addressed in a compassionate and understanding way. This is because (newsflash) it’s more common than people realize. Also, ensuring that a church is an open enough place for people to confess and deal with such issues to overcome them is crucial.
On a final note, what makes the book shine is that Rebecca has an exhaustive network of highly intelligent friends and colleagues (both believers and non-believers) whom she uses in the book to great effect.
Confronting Christianity is a wonderful, relevant and current sourcebook for Christian apologetics. Don’t miss it!
God Is Always Better Than We Can Imagine: 31 Meditations on the Greatness of God by Iain Wright
(Banner of Truth, 239 pages)
This volume contains 31 short, varied, and powerful Bible lessons all centering around the theme of God always being better than we can imagine Him to be.
Many times God blesses us in ways we could never have imagined. He cares for us with a love that is greater than comprehension and He works in our lives in ways we may never grasp.
This theme is interwoven throughout each of the thirty-one meditations in the book and Wright does an outstanding job with every one of them. Each lesson is essentially a mini-expository sermon and comes packaged with great measures of insights shrouded in the warmth and knowledge of a gifted preacher. For example…
“The next time the enemy tempts you to despair that perhaps you have not repented enough, think on this: the Saviour went more willingly to the cross for his people than you go to the throne of grace for forgiveness”. (pages 89-90)
In another example, Wright teaches about Micah’s verses about how God casts our sins into the sea…
“The picture is a clear one. Once you drop something into the depths of the sea, it is gone for good. There is no getting it back.” (page 119)
It’s these concise yet powerful statements that are in every meditation that makes this book very special. The level of Wright’s acumen when it comes to scripture continually shines, surprises, and delights throughout. As a result, God Is Always Better Than We Can Imagine is filled to the brim with insights. If your desire is to plumb the depths of scripture and expand your learning, this is the book for you. Also, each meditation has helpful questions at the end for further reflection. It makes for a nice family devotional.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in these reviews are solely those of the reviewer and do not represent any endorsement from the publisher(s).