15 Best Reads of ’15

To attempt to describe how enriching this year was in regards to my reading would be unsatisfactory. I have been immensely broken down, reconstructed, broken down, reconstructed, multiple times over due to the glorious gift of reading over the last 12 months. My mind has been shaped. My heart has been refreshed. My affection for the Savior has grown. What a joy the discipline of reading has been. As Augustine said,

“You are unchangeable, yet you change all things. You are never new, never old, and yet all things have new life from you.”

He has most assuredly done that through the task of reading over this last year.

*A quick word about the books. I have divided them up into 3 categories: Theology, Cultural Analysis, and Life & Sanctification. I understand that our understanding and processing of theology greatly affects our sanctification, as well as culture. However, for mere categorical separation, this was the best way to divide up and the best descriptors.

 

Life & Sanctification

1. Sin & Temptation by John Owen

I’ve read no greater book that speaks so honestly about our war against sin and gives such truth from Scripture on how to go to fight temptation and, through the power of the Spirit, kill sin in our lives. This book was incredibly convicting. It shows the reality of the adversary we face and the intentionality we must have to wage war against our sinful desires and behaviors.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “He who pleads with God for the remission of sin also pleads with his own heart to detest it.”
  • “No soul has ever lacked God’s supply when he depended upon God’s invitation to trust in Him absolutely.”
  • “We do not have the ability in ourselves to accomplish the least of God’s tasks.”
  • “There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.”

2. Saturate by Jeff Vanderstelt

What a gift this book was. Reading Vanderstelt’s account of what the Lord has done through Soma Church is a true gift. He gives a wonderful account of how to be in each other’s lives, bring the gospel into our relationships, and live life together in ways that bring Christ into the fabric of all that we do, rather than relegate Christ into Sundays and Bible study. Read this book. Soak it in. And be challenged to live lives saturated with Christ.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “Brokenness has to happen if real discipleship is going to take place.”
  • “Jesus isn’t looking for the most impressive person because he already is that person.”
  • “Trying to be like Jesus without Jesus working through us is not the life he rescued us to live.”
  • “In Jesus’ kingdom, the fatherless get fathered.”
  • “Seeing church mainly as an event creates a significant problem for mission, because most people are very busy.”

3. The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes

I don’t think I could read this book enough. I have brought this book along in so many of my relationships with college students and close friends. For me, there is no better book for a discipleship context and no better book to be challenged on Christ’s lordship in our lives. Sure, it’s a deep read and Sibbes is an intense wordsmith, but boy is it life-giving and Scripture grounded. This book has taught me so much on how to accept reproof, correction, and sharpening of character. Read this book in 2016 and you will not regret it.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “Whatever to be wished for in an all-sufficient comforter is all to be found in Christ.”
  • “The power that is given to the church is given for edification, not destruction.”
  • “The same Spirit that convinces us of the necessity of his righteousness to cover us convinces us also for His government to rue us.”
  • “For what the heart likes best, the mind studies most.”
  • “Satan will object, ‘You are a great sinner.’ We may answer, ‘Christ is a strong Savior.’”

4. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

Nancy Pearcey gives such a comprehensive look into and the journey of Christianity through the centuries and the major attempts by society and culture to reconstruct, rethink, and reinvent. She shows in great detail and with great care that God is who He says He is and Christ did come to do what He said He did. She shows that God is a God we can trust and his acts in history are trustworthy and therefore profound and far-reaching for our lives. What a wonderful book to help guide our conversations in the present culture wars against the truthfulness of our faith and the greatness and ultimate reality of Christ and His work.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “The historicity of the resurrection has profound and far-reaching spiritual implications. An event that didn’t occur has none.”
  • “Given our fallen nature, we typically do no really sit before the Lord until our legs are knocked out from under us by crisis.”
  • “It is a common assumption that, in order to survive, churches must accommodate to the age.”
  • “Imagine how our churches would be transformed if we truly regarded laypeople as the frontline troops in the spiritual battle.”

5. God Is The Gospel by John Piper

I read this classic by Piper and during it thought, man, have I been a Christian before this. This book was so foundational for understanding that the center of the gospel, the center of our desire, must be God. At the end of the day God must be our prize and He must be what we want most. Receiving Him, embracing Him, having life with Him, should bring us the most joy. He, by himself, must be our greatest joy among the many gifts that God grants us.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “The focus of reconciliation is that we now may enjoy the presence of God without condemnation.”
  • “For most people, love is whatever puts human value and human well being at the highest point.”
  • “Being loved by God is the wonderful replacement of self as the foundation for our joy.”
  • “Faith is not saving faith if it tries to trust Christ for the wrong things.”
  • “There is no gospel where the glory of God in Christ is not shown. And there is no salvation through the gospel where the glory of God in Christ is not seen.”

Cultural Analysis

1. Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle

Buy this book right now. Start this book the moment it gets to your doorstep or in your hands from the bookstore. With over 30 years of research, Turkle shows the devastating effects technology is having our minds and our emotions. Turkle shows us how important it is for us to put down our phones and turn towards each other to regain the ability to think, feel, and communicate with truth and vulnerability.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “We build machines that guarantee that human stories will fall upon deaf ears.”
  • “The feeling that ‘no one is listening to me’ plays a large part in our relationships with technology. That’s why it is so appealing to have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed”
  • “Studies show that the mere presence of a phone on the table changes what people talk about.”
  • “Our quantitative selves leave data trails that are the beginning of our stories, not the results, not the conclusions.”
  • “You have to show up for the many conversations that feel inefficient or boring to be there for the conversation that changes your mind.”

2. Switch by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

Change is hard. We all know it. But brothers Chip & Dan Heath show that change is possible, we just need to know how to think about it and know where to look to change behavior. They bring to the table countless research studies showing how changing one thing can change everything. If you want to get in the habit of reading or changing a certain behavior but are having trouble, these guys can help a great deal on showing where to start and how to think differently. Amazing read.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “Change isn’t an event, it’s a process.”
  • “Problems are easy to spot; progress much harder.”
  • “A change leader thinks, ‘How can I set up a situation that brings out the good in these people.’”
  • “Habits will form inevitably, whether they’re formed intentionally or not.”
  • “People find it more motivating to be partly finished with a longer journey than to be at the starting gate of a shorter one.”

3. The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D.

Men and women everywhere, pick up this book. Growing up with mostly just my sister and mom in the house after my brother went to college, and now married, this book was incredibly eye-opening. Brizendine, M.D., goes to great length to show the neurological research on the woman’s brain and show why women and men are different in a variety of ways and what accounts for those differences. This was one of my favorite reads this year.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “New mothers lose an average of 700 hours of sleep in the first year after childbirth.”
  • “Both men and women are comfortable being physically close to a happy person, yet only women report equal comfort being close to someone sad.”
  • “Men pick up the subtle signs of sadness in a female face 40% of the time, whereas women pick up these signs 90% of the time.”

4. Alone Together by Sherry Turkle

Before Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle wrote this. In great detail, Turkle shows how technology is under-delivering on the connection and relationships that it [appears] to promise us. This a foundational book to pick up if you’re wanting to jump into the subject of how technology is changing our present and shaping our future.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “It is easy to become so immersed in technology that we ignore what we know about life.”
  • “It’s taken a generation for people to begin to understand that on the internet the words delete and erase are metaphorical.”
  • “But even a lot of people from a distance can turn out to be not enough people at all. We brag about how many we have friended on Facebook, yet Americans say they have fewer friends than before.”
  • “We are not in trouble because of invention but because we think it will solve everything.”

5. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

While I certainly don’t agree with some of Ansari’s methods of his research in this book, in Modern Romance he steps off the comedic stage and into the academic realm. He has done his research and spent the time with many of the world’s leading researchers in this field of technology and how it relates to relationships. This book gives a clear view into the dating scene and how it has changed over the last 50 years and where it’s headed. The research he pulls from and the case studies he brings to the table are simply mesmerizing, sometimes downright unbelievable.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “Research shows that when we have more options, we are actually less satisfied and sometimes even have a harder time making a choice at all.”
  • “In 2014, the average American spent nearly 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen, be it a smartphone, tablet, TV, or computer.”
  • “The internet doesn’t simply help us find the best thing out there; it has helped to produce the idea that there is a best thing and, if we search hard enough, we can find it.”
  • “Why do we all say we prefer honesty but rarely give that courtesy to others?”
  • “The fact that your interactions on your phone can have such a profound effect on people’s impression of you as a person makes it clear that you basically have two selves now – your real-world self and your phone self.”

Theology

1. Heaven by Randy Alcorn

This is my top read of 2015. No book has shaped me, encouraged me, given me hope, and given me a complete 180 degree turn in terms of how to think about a certain truth/reality. Starting out this year, I spent some time in counseling to work through my paralyzing fear of death. This book was a suggestion and I was thrilled to take in its content. Along with this book, I attended TGC ’15 for the sole reason that it was on the new heavens and new earth and the dawning of new creation. Look, if you have fearful thoughts of death and heaven and what it’s going to be like, read this book. This book literally changed my life. It gave me so much hope and joy for what Christ is going to do when he returns and what that means for his children. These pages are covered in tears, but not tears of anxiety, tears of joy.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “Just as God has no equal as a person, heaven has no equal as a place.”
  • “We’ve never been hugged here as meaningfully as we’ll be hugged on the New Earth.”
  • “The God who commands hospitality will not be outdone in his hospitality to us.”
  • “The Bible portrays life in God’s presence as so exciting and compelling that even the youngest and healthiest of us should daydream about it.”
  • “How many times have we prayed God would make us Christlike, then begged him to take away from us the very things he sent to do so.”

2. The Cross of Christ by John Stott

This book is a book I will read every year. What a challenging read to move us towards right thinking about the cross and all that the cross means for us, for God, and for His Son. This book claims the #2 for this year. Rich. Bathed in Scripture. Christ-centered. Christ-exalting.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “For whether we like the cross or not, we are involved. Our sins put Him there.”
  • “A guilty conscience is a great blessing, but only if it drives us to come home.”
  • “For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.”
  • “Nothing weans us from worldliness more than the cross of Christ.”
  • “Before we begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.”

3. Life In The Trinity by Donald Fairbairn

Thinking about the Trinity and understanding it is hard work. We most definitely will never understand it completely this side of heaven. But what Fairbairn does in this book is amazingly beautiful. He shows the work of Christ and how it was meant to bring us into sharing the relationship the Son has with the Father through the Spirit. It is glorious. The ancient Church Fathers wrote of the concept of theosis, the deification of the saints. This process, for them, meant that us becoming divine was grounded in the fact that Christ, through his blood, brings us into the divine relationship that the Father and Son share within the Trinity. This is life in God, experiencing the love and exchange within our Trinitarian God. If you want to think on and process the Trinity more deeply, pick up this book.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “Eternal life is not just living forever; it is living in a certain way, having a certain quality of life that is available only to those who have faith in Christ.”
  • “All aspects of Christian life, from beginning to end, revolve around our union with the Son and our reflection of his relationship to his Father.”
  • “Conversion to Christianity is not so much a process of gaining faith where one had none before as it is a process of transferring one’s trust from whatever or whomever one was trusting previously to Christ alone.”
  • “God’s sending his Son as an atoning sacrifice is not merely an example of love, it is love itself.”
  • “Christianity teaches us that our significance does not ultimately lie in what we accomplish or what we do; it lies in the one to whom we belong.”

4. The Drama of Scripture by Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew

A staple in understanding the totality of Scripture and God’s work throughout the ages. These guys do something pretty special in this book. They show the narrative of God’s work in creation from Genesis to Revelation, showing how his people live in response to him and how he faithfully responds to our constant sinful disobedience. This book will revolutionize the way you read and view God’s Word, God’s people, and God’s Savior.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “On the night of Passover Jesus shows the climactic moment of Israel’s story is to be his own death.”
  • “The root of all opposition to God’s Rule was human rebellion, and that could be destroyed only at the cross.”
  • “The way we live as citizens, consumers, students, husbands, mentors, and friends witnesses to the restoring power of God.”
  • “In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a new world is dawning. The night of evil has ended. The light of God will fill the whole earth again. The resurrection stands at the center of the Christian faith.”

5. God’s Love by R. C. Sproul

God’s love isn’t the easiest thing to understand. He loves us, but hates sin. How does that work? How does God’s holiness play into his sacrificial love? R. C. Sproul gives a wonderful explanation and helpful wisdom in regards to God’s love and how he gives that to us, his children. This is a brief, but comprehensive look into the glory that is the love of God and how that is shown to sinful people like us.

Quotes to Make You Think

  • “We must remember that the proclivity for idolatry is one of the strongest inclinations of our fallen natures.”
  • “God does not love us because we are lovely. He loves us because Christ is lovely.”
  • “Love rejoices when righteousness triumphs. It does not cheer when the villain wins.”
  • “One of the most difficult virtues for us is to patiently bear injuries from other.”
  • “If we deny God’s estrangement from us, the cross is reduced to a pathetic and anemic moral influence with no substitutionary satisfaction of God.”

 

Jonathan C. Edwards (@NotThePuritan)

Jonathan (M.Div, Th.M) is the founder & CEO of Peel, a social media startup directed at redeeming the value of social media in everyday life. He is the author of "Left: The Struggle to Make Sense of Life When a Parent Leaves," available now!

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