Saturday, December 6, 2014

My Favorite Books I Read in 2014

Coming out of blogging slumber just to post this list. I read quite a few books during 2014, some required for seminary and many that were not. This list is a mix of those two categories, although only a couple were actually required books for class. Out of all the books in both categories that I read this year, these are the ones that I found most interesting, entertaining, edifying, enlightening, challenging, and/or simply enjoyable.

George Whitefield, Volumes 1-2 – Arnold Dallimore

  • Easily the best biography I've ever read, and possibly my favorite books ever. These two volumes tell the story of one of the greatest lives ever lived, and one of the most amazing times in the history of the Church. I can do no better to describe my feelings about Dallimore's work and Whitefield's life than Cornelius Van Til, who said of Volume 1: "Read this book. You may forget to talk to your wife (or husband); you may forget to go to work; but it's worth a few sacrifices. Why do I go to such extremes? To talk like that is surely abnormal. Yes, it is. But I did get into an unusually abnormal state of mind when I read the book. Besides, I am even now, weeks later, still abnormal."

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption – Laura Hillenbrand

  • The second best biography I've read. An amazingly gripping story of how God worked through horribly difficult circumstances in the life of Louie Zamperini to sustain him and ultimately save him from sin and to a life of good work for God. The movie version comes out this Christmas. Despite what appears to be a downplaying of Louie's faith, can't wait to see it.

The Monster in the Hollows and The Warden and the Wolf King (Books 3-4 in The Wingfeather Saga) – Andrew Peterson

  • Children's fiction in the vein of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkein, Andrew Peterson's 4-book Wingfeather Saga is simply wonderful. I enjoyed the first couple books, but I honestly thought they were just good. The last 2 books are spectacular. Book 3 was probably my favorite, but the last book brings the story to a great and satisfying conclusion. These are must-reads.

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God – Tim Keller
  • One the best books on prayer I've ever read. Grounded in historical insights from men like John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Augustine, but connected to our specific context as well. Profound yet practical, as with everything Keller writes.

The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

  • Spectacular. Edifying, entertaining, challenging, convicting, and encouraging. Really enjoyed this modern update of the language as well. Modern but didn't lose the sense of the original. Must-read.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief – John Frame

  • John Frame is one of the most cogent thinkers I've ever read. His writing is so logical and just makes sense of extremely profound and difficult doctrine. I didn't agree with everything he said in this book, but I think I would consider this my go-to systematic theology going forward on everything except things like baptism and ecclesiology.

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God – J.I. Packer

  • The best book I've ever read on evangelism. Packer is clear, concise, profoundly theological and yet practical at the same time. Only 122 pages yet brilliantly outlines how God's sovereignty fits perfectly with the commands to evangelize. Our evangelism (and our Christian faith) must hold together God's sovereignty and human responsibility in tension, as the Bible does.

Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus – Mack Stiles

  • As with all of the other books in the 9Marks series I have read, this book is really, really good. Short, to the point, theologically deep, but practical and accessible. Stiles paints a beautiful picture of how the church can live out the call of Jesus to make his name known to all people.

The Christian in Complete Armour, Vol. 1 – William Gurnall
  • This is the first of a 3 volume modernized abridgment of Gurnall's classic exposition of Ephesians 6 and spiritual warfare. Volume 1 was originally published in 1655, but I found this immensely helpful in my own fight against sin. Also a wonderful example of applied pastoral theology and a pastor's heart at work to help his people. Volumes 2-3 are on my list for 2015.

Preaching and Preachers – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • There's a reason the version I read was a 40th anniversary edition. Chock-full of helpful advice and practical insight for preachers. Lloyd-Jones is extremely opinionated, but even where you disagree, he's always fun to read.

Amusing Ourselves to Death – Neil Postman

  • One of the more fascinating books I've read in a very long time. Almost 30 years old and not a bit dated in his actual arguments. In fact, looking at developments in technology and the ways in which people communicate today, I think it's possible Postman was more accurate in his assessments than even he could have known. This book has stimulated a huge amount of thinking on my part about my own life, how I want to parent, and how I want to pastor in the world in which we live.

With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology – Jim Hamilton
  • Excellent treatment of the book of Daniel, its place within the canon, and its contribution to Biblical theology. Even-handed and insightful.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert – Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

  • Really, really good. Other than a couple misguided and unnecessary parts (I'm thinking in particular of her 10 page tangent on the Regulative Principle...), the book is simply wonderful. Painful to read at times, but completely saturated with the grace of the gospel. Beautiful.

Is God Anti-Gay?: And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible and Same-Sex Attraction - Sam Alberry

  • Spectacular. Right there with Wesley Hill's "Washed and Waiting" as my favorite books on the topic. Will be incredibly helpful for a lot of people thinking through this issue.

What is the Meaning of Sex? – Denny Burk
  • Some very needed clarity in the midst of widespread and ever-expanding confusion surrounding the topic. Will be using this in the future as a valuable resource in multiple contexts, I'm sure.

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