This is another one of those fun blog posts. As a pastor, I am often asked “What are you reading?” People want to know what other people in leadership are taking into their minds and thinking through which then leads to productivity. There is a reason why we do this and it’s because we as human beings are actually on this earth to love and glorify God, and one way we increasingly do this is by contemplating the truth of God and His Word. The Bible is obviously the place where we meet with God by the power of God the Holy Spirit, but there are a number of supplemental materials that can be incredibly helpful as we grow in Christ. Here are the 10 books I have found to be the most helpful in my life (besides the Bible) up and until this point…
- “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis– I became a Christian in 2008, which was right in the middle of the “Emerging Church Movement.” This was a time when there were a lot of books being published that were very light on theology, and so I was personally hungering for deep reflection on orthodox theology. Thankfully, God led me to C.S. Lewis and beginning with “Mere Christianity,” Lewis led me down a path with many stops along the way (The Great Divorce, Till We Have Faces, The Problem with Pain, etc) as I journeyed into theology and began to quench my thirst for truth.
- “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain– Every kid needs to have their imagination fed, and when I was a kid my Mom bought me all the Mark Twain books. Twain, along with Jack London fed my imagination as well as anybody. We are losing the art of story-telling and imagination and this has a deeper negative impact on our children than we realize, which in turn negatively effects our society more than we realize. Let’s challenge ourselves to read books like “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and put down our tablets for just a chapter a day and I bet we will all begin to see a difference.
- “Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey– Have you ever been in debt? Are you a millennial who has no idea how to save up for a down payment on a house? Are you worried about retirement? Then, this book is for you… Dave Ramsey literally changed my life forever because of this book. It isn’t a hard book to read and it isn’t technical; it’s just straightforward helpful financial advice for the person who needs help. It’s like going on a diet with your money! I was $30,000 in debt to student loans working on a salary under $30,000 and he helped me get out of debt in just 3 years.
- “Just Do Something” by Kevin Deyoung– Many people, especially young people want to know the will of God for their lives. They want to have answers to who God wants them to marry, where He wants them to live, what career He wants them to have. Deyoung does us all a service we should be thankful for as he reminds us of the refreshing truth that God has given us His will for us in His Word, and God does not work like a cruel puzzle-maker as he laughs at us trying to put the pieces together, but instead God delights in us living out His will for us and He has revealed that will for us in His Word, and He has equipped us as individuals to live for Him in our unique ways. Deyoung helps us to be able to quit trying to put the pieces together and instead “Just do Something.”
- “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”by C.S. Lewis– The “Chronicles of Narnia” are just as good to read when you are 7 as they are now when I read them at 27. “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” is the most beautiful of the chronicles, and in my opinion it is the greatest metaphorical depiction of the gospel in all of literature or film.
- “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. This has recently been turned into a movie which was also surprisingly well-made. This was the first book I read as a Christian that truly pushed me into systematic apologetics. Lee was a young reporter on a mission to disprove his wife’s new found faith, but instead the young man ended up building “The Case for Christ.” This is a true story, and one that many millennials can relate to as they seek to answer their own questions about Jesus and the Bible.
- “On the Incarnation” by Athanasius– Athanasius is probably my favorite figure from church history. His importance in the history of the church is drastically understated and I believe his name should be as recognizable as the other “A’s,” Augustine and Aquinas. I mean, the guy was exiled from his homeland 5 times! In this book, Athanasius highlights orthodox views on the hypostatic union of Christ and “On the Incarnation” against the Arians. Athanasius’ work and existence was timely and necessary to fight off the biggest early heresy of the church, and Athanasius is just as needed in the 21st century as we need to continue battling off modern day Arianism.
- “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan– My personal opinion is this work is best read in the modern updated English, but if you’re a huge Shakespeare fan, or you like King James English, then maybe you would prefer the original version. In whatever case, this is a convicting analogy of the Christian life at times while at other times it is a very encouraging and joyous journey as we follow along “Pilgrim’s” progress through the Christian life. If you haven’t read this and you brag about having read “all the classics,” well then, my friend, you have NOT read all the classics and you had best go pick this book up and begin to read.
- “40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law” by Thomas Schreiner– In my personal faith journey the hardest theological question I have come across and dealt with is the question of the place of the biblical Law in the life of a New Covenant believer. Dr. Schreiner has been the most helpful person in helping me to think through each of the precise theological points and issues which arise from this conversation. I highly recommend reading this book one question per day in order to help you think through these difficult and technical biblical questions.
- “Spiritual Leadership” by Oswald Sanders-This is another book that is best read one chapter per day. This is the best book on leadership that I’ve read. We are all spiritual leaders to someone, whether it be our children, the flock we pastor, our spouse, or a friend we disciple, so we all need to grow in our spiritual leadership and this book helps with just that.
There’s my list! Certainly many other books have been helpful and thought provoking, but these are thus far, the top 10 most helpful books in my life (besides the Bible).
**** Honorable Mention
- “Gaining by Losing” by J.D. Greear 2. “What is the Gospel” by Greg Gilbert 3. “Basic Christianity” by John Stott 4. “Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God” by J.I. Packer 5. “The Hermeneutical Spiral” by Grant Osborne 6. “Confessions” by Augustine 7. “The Republic” by Plato 8. “95 Theses” by Martin Luther 9. “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London 10. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr.