Perhaps you are one of those people who does all your Christmas shopping in July, but most likely, you’re like me and it’s a hustle between Thanksgiving and Christmas to get it all done. Or perhaps you never have the time to actually stop and think about what you’d like for Christmas, so you throw out a list of things you really don’t have any strong desire for. Either way, whether giving or receiving (or both), let me make a plug to add books to your list this year. I yearn for a church that recaptures the beauty and power of published books to battle against today’s obsession of consuming information primarily in headlines and tweets.
One of the signs that God transformed my heart my junior year of college was that I all of the sudden had an insatiable appetite to read His Word. But the Lord also grew my love for books of all genres, especially the ones that stirred my heart for Christ as a result of reading them. So find and read books that make much of Jesus, that cultivate a blazing fire in your heart, and ones that change the way you live. To get started, here is my humble yet urgent book list, 10 titles that I want you to consider putting on your “list” this Christmas.
It’s not an understatement to say that this book has had as big of an impact on my life as any. The gospel is explosive, and when it shines the light of Christ into our hearts it forever changes us. Jared’s humor and authentic vulnerability makes it all the more compelling to read.
Excerpt: “And in those days, at the end of my rope and the end of myself, as I was out of options and out of help and tempted to abandon what scrap of faith I had left, I could hear the Lord asking, “Do you want to try anything else?” and I was granted the grace to say to the God of my salvation, “To whom shall I go?”
2. None Like Him by Jennifer Wilkin
Throughout my preaching, I often tell our church that really knowing who God is and what He has done in his character and nature will do more to change our lives than any list of “how to’s…” ever would. We fix our eyes on Him, and He will change us from the inside out out of His marvelous grace. Point being, know who God is. Know all of his attributes. That is what Jen does in this work, she simply boasts in and proclaims our God, as revealed in His Word. I am grateful for her giftedness in communicating this, and I will read this ten times out of ten before turning to a self-help work.
Excerpt: “The author of Hebrews takes care to distinguish between the fear of God’s consuming wrath and the fear of God’s holiness. Both may cause us to tremble, but only the second causes us to worship and repent.”
3. Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller
What’s a book list without Tim Keller? One question I receive more than most is something along the lines of, “how can I find meaning in my work?” How do we grasp the tension of God ordaining work as a good thing that existed even before the Fall and the danger of work becoming a god in its own right where we find our identity in? This is far and away the best book on how our hearts should be molded in the workplace, whether that’s in the corner office on 5th ave or in the corner of the living room at the changing table.
Excerpt: “If you ask people in nursing homes or hospitals how they are doing, you will often hear that their main regret is that they wish they had something to do, some way to be useful to others. They feel they have too much leisure and not enough work.”
In our day, the church needs to relearn how to engage with the public. The tendency is to become either smug or silent, and neither will further the mission to make disciples. This work is more vital for believers to read with each passing day, and it will equip you to engage in public conversations about the issues of the day in a way that is, well, actually Christian.
Excerpt: “When the grace of Jesus sinks in, we will be among the least offended and most loving people in the world.”
I welcome any book that causes me to look beyond American Christianity and to the global church where God is working to make disciples to the ends of the earth. This book is nothing short of inspiring, but be careful because it might shake up your tendency to prefer comfort-based, no risk-needed faith.
Excerpt: “For us, persecution is like the sun coming up in the east. It happens all the time. It’s the way things are. There is nothing unusual or unexpected about it. Persecution for our faith has always been-and probably always will be-a normal part of life.”
A powerful book that walks through the story of Rosaria, someone who self-admittedly would be the LAST person to trust in Jesus Christ until well, Jesus stormed her heart and melted it over time. For those of us who have that person in our lives who “would never become a Christian”, this book may just reignite your hope and jumpstart your prayer life.
Excerpt: “Christians still scare me when they reduce Christianity to a lifestyle and claim that God is on the side of those who attend the rules of the lifestyle they have invented or claim to find in the Bible.”
There are a ton of productivity books out there, but this is the only one I came across that sees productivity through a Christ-centered lens. This had a major impact on me (and still does) in regards to how I approach and structure my work week in such a way that maximizes my time and effort for the Glory of God.
Excerpt: “The reason it’s so hard to get things done is that we have transitioned as a society from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, but we haven’t updated our strategies and tactics to align with the nature of knowledge work. The result is that we are unprepared to meet the challenges of ambiguity and overload.”
There is perhaps no more confusion on a topic than the one of “manhood” in our day. The two trenches of controlling men and passive men are equally destructive, and Eric does a masterful job of showing a better way. He challenges men to be God-driven, servant-based leaders in such a way where even if we saw a small revival of this in the church today, there would be a massive impact where both men and women would thrive as a result.
Excerpt: “There should be no visionless men in the church, for vision is the ability and clarity to see God’s preferred future through Jesus Christ and the Word of God.”
There is little need to explain why this book needs to be in your library. The fact that you are probably speed reading through this post because you have to get to the next thing on your agenda is evidence enough. Buy it. Read it. Then pass it along to someone else.
Excerpt: “Jesus knows what he’s talking about. As much as we must pray against the Devil and pray for the persecuted church, in Jesus’s thinking the greater threat to the gospel is sheer exhaustion.”
I admit that this may be an awkward book to ask for or give someone on Christmas morning. So go buy this for yourself. The statistics are staggering as to how prevalent sexual immorality is, especially pornography, and this period of seeing powerful men getting outed in their sexual assault is surely in part the result of a sexualized culture. If you have sons, or nephews, or struggle yourself, this is vital.
Excerpt: “Jesus’ grace to change you is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy you.”