My Top 5 Books of 2014

books2014

2014 is almost over which means it’s time for a list of the best books I’ve read this year. Here are my top 5:

  1. The Mortification of Sin by John Owen
    What a powerful book! Owen provides a thorough exposition of Romans 8:13 challenging the believer to examine himself and how he is working to not just fight, but kill, his sin. Owen shows us why we should be killing sin, gives methods for killing sin, and tells us why this can only be done by looking to the cross of Christ and relying on the Holy Spirit. This book was deeply convicting and intensely practical. A must-read for any follower of Jesus!

    “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.” ― John Owen

  2. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Timothy and Kathy Keller
    This is a great read whether you are single, dating, or married. Tim and his wife Kathy debunk common marriage myths, explain the mission of marriage, and show how marriage is a picture of the gospel. Then they offer practical advice to help prepare for marriage if you are unmarried or to work through tough patches, love and understand your spouse more fully, embrace your identity as man or woman, and confront your own self-centeredness and wounds if you are married. I especially appreciated the “Essence of Marriage” chapter in which Keller defines what true love is and how a covenantal marriage doesn’t stifle love, but allows it to find its fullness in promise and action towards a spouse.

    “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” ― Timothy Keller

  3. How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know by Byron Sharp
    This book is basically a MythBusters for marketers. Sharp and his team debunk theories that most marketers are taught in college by showing that they don’t exist in the real world. For example, he says that the main thing brands should focus on is availability (both mental and physical) and not differentiation or niche marketing. He also discourages the use of price promotions which lead to short-term sales boosts, but no measurable long-term growth. In a field commonly thought of as an art, Sharp shows that there are scientific laws and trends that can be applied to building a brand. Sharp outlines seven rules that have been shown to actually help brands grow. Whether you are studying marketing in college or have been building brand for decades, this is a book that you need to read to make the best use of your resources and create an enduring brand.

    “Marketing professionals today are better educated than in the past, and they have access to much more data on buying behavior. But the study of marketing is so young that we would be arrogant to believe that we know it all, or even that we have got the basics right yet.” – Byron Sharp

  4. The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert
    Christians must ask themselves: “How does my faith impact the way I do my job?” In this great little book, Traeger and Gilbert address the two main problems that everyone faces when it comes to work (idolatry and idleness) and then show how the gospel transforms our purpose and motivation for every aspect of our vocation. They close the book with practical application as it relates to choosing a job, managing people, sharing the gospel, and defining success. [See my full review here]

    “What makes you a success is being able to stand before King Jesus one day and say, ‘Lord, where you deployed me I served well. I gave it my all. I worked at it with all my heart because I was working for you, not for human master.’ When that becomes your goal, it is enormously freeing because you no longer have to define success on the world’s terms; you define it on Jesus’ terms.” -Traeger and Gilbert

  5. Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
    This abridged version of Metaxas’ larger Bonhoeffer biography is perfect for people who rarely read biographies. At 256 pages (compared to 624 for the unabridged edition), Bonhoeffer Abridged contains enough details to provide a context in which to place Bonhoeffer’s theology and actions, while maintaining a quick pace that highlights the most important events of his life. Bonhoeffer Abridged brings the reader face-to-face with the famous German theologian and inspires the reader to be a bold disciple of Jesus Christ in the face of incredible pressure to compromise. [See my full review here]

    “It was not apathy or passiveness. For [Bonhoeffer], prayer was a display of the strongest possible activity.” ― Eric Metaxas

Honorable Mentions:

I’d definitely encourage you to read at least one of these books next year. If you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading now and what I’ve read in the past, check out my Goodreads profile. Happy reading!

Have you read any of these books or do have a book that would recommend reading in 2015? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

BONUS: My Top 5 Books of 2013

Jesus Continued [Book Review]

Have you ever wondered why Jesus said it would be better for His followers if He left and sent the Holy Spirit (John 16:7)? When I first read that verse, I was taken aback.

Like Thomas in John 20, many of us would much rather have a physical human being that we can touch and see than an unseen Spirit that, like the wind, “blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (John 3:8). Often as Christians, we feel disconnected from God. We look at God speaking to His people in the Old Testament, Jesus teaching the disciples in the Gospels, and the Holy Spirit moving mightily in Acts, but we have a hard time connecting that with our lives today. This difficulty that even seasoned Christians have relating to God the Holy Spirit has led to Him being referred to as “the forgotten God” (to borrow Francis Chan’s term).

In his book Jesus Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You, J.D. Greear wants to help Christians personally relate to God through the Holy Spirit.

Greear opens by asking, “Do you ever feel like God is someone you know about more than someone you know-like He’s more of a doctrine than a person?” Read more of this post

Why Do You Worship?

Worship BG - Not To Us

This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry youth group on Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Key Text: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

WHAT IS WORSHIP?

You and I are worshiping every second of every day. We are continually pouring ourselves out for people, causes, things, or experiences. Worship never stops.

So what is worship? It is much more than just singing songs or playing an instrument (though that is certainly part of it). Christian worship is a biblically faithful response to a biblically faithful understanding of God. It is both internal and external. The internal spirit of worship comes from experiencing and treasuring the beauty and worth of God as presented in the Bible. This results in an external response that shows what we have experienced and treasure. Worship begins in the heart as a matter of spirit and truth, and then flows out of the heart to impact every part of our daily life.

The opposite of selfless Christian worship is selfish worship, or idolatry. Idolatry is an unbiblical, unfaithful understanding of God and/or an unbiblical, unfaithful response to Him. Just like true worship, idolatry begins internally long before it manifests itself externally. And like true worship, it eventually flows from our heart to impact every area of our life.

John Calvin famously said, “The human heart is an idol factory.” Because of the sinful tendencies of our heart, we can twist things that are meant to bring glory to God and make them into idols. In other words, sin is not just doing bad things, but also making good things into ultimate things. This turns selfless worship into selfish worship. This is the very issue that Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34Read more of this post

Is Social Media Making Us Less Social? [Part 3]

iPhone 4 Addiction

This is Part 3 in a three-part series on social media usage. Click here to read Part 1 on three main solutions to the overall problem. Click here to read Part 2 on the personal effects of social media.

We are the most connected generation that has ever lived. Think about all the new technologies that have been introduced in the past two decades that have allowed us to stay in touch like never before. Someone can literally get in touch with me almost any time of the day regardless of where I am in the world.

While these advances have created a plethora of benefits, the negative side effects associated with overusing them are beginning to surface. We all know that person who is constantly staring into the screen of their smartphone even when surrounded by friends and family. Or the friend who insists on taking a picture of everything they do and everywhere they go with you instead of simply enjoying the moment for what it is. The video below, while perhaps a bit over dramatic, puts our technology use into perspective.

Here are three major ways that social media is altering our ability to build and maintain interpersonal relationships:  Read more of this post

Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy [Book Review]

bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer Abridged alongside the unabridged edition of Bonhoeffer

Today is Reformation Day, the day we remember Martin Luther’s famous act of nailing his 95 Theses to the door of The Church of All Saints, sparking the Protestant Reformation.

Luther is far from the only famous theologian to come out of Germany. In his recent book Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Metaxas tells the story of another German theologian who made a significant contribution to the universal church.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a fascinating individual who lived during a challenging period of German history. Born in 1906, he was coming of age as World War I was wrapping up. Bonhoeffer had an intimate view of the political and social unrest that followed due to his family’s prominence and connections. It was during this time that he developed a passion for theology, thanks to his mother’s influence, and began pursuing pastoral ministry.

During his twenties, Dietrich had the opportunity to travel to Rome, Barcelona, New York, and London, where the foundations for his theological thought was laid and cemented. He began teaching at the University of Berlin in 1932, a year before Hitler was elected, initiating the most challenging time in the life of Bonhoeffer.  Read more of this post

Is Social Media Making Us Less Social? [Part 2]

Cellphone

This is Part 2 in a three-part series on social media usage. Click here to read Part 1 on three main solutions to the overall problem. Click here to read Part 3 on the impact of social media on interpersonal relationships.

Back in February 2012, I wrote a post exploring if social media (and technology in general) is making us less social and offered three ways that we can disconnect from social media in order to reconnect with real people. At that time 46% of adults owned a smartphone. As of January 2014, the number of people owning a smartphone had increased to 58% (with 29% of cell owners saying that they “can’t imagine living without” their phone). A recent study found that the average person spends 23 hours per week emailing, texting, and using social media (with Facebook accounting for 7 of the 23 hours). In other words, people are spending 14% of their week online!

Despite all the benefits, has this increased dependence on technology and social media had any negative effects on us? I’ll break my thoughts up into two posts (since one of the downsides as been a decreased attention span :) ). In this post, I’ll outline some of the personal effects of social media/technology addiction and in the next post, I’ll take a look at some changes to interpersonal relationships.

So here are three primary ways that our personal lives have been negatively affected by increased social media and technology usage:   Read more of this post

Four Ways to Lead Yourself Before Leading Others

Follow The Leader!

This post originally appeared on Mason Kesner’s blog

Everyone wants to be a leader. However, leadership doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just walk up to a group of random strangers and declare, “I am your leader. Follow me.”

Before you can lead others well, you must first be able to lead yourself. As the Latin proverb goes: “It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself.” Even after you become a leader, you owe it to your followers to lead yourself well.

So how do you begin to rule yourself? Here are four habits of successful self-leaders:  Read more of this post

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