My Top 5 Books of 2016

 

books2016

It’s hard to believe that 2016 is coming to a close. The Lord has been faithful to provide once again this year, including an array of interesting books to read. Here’s a round up of my favorite books from this year:

  1. Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle
    A poignant book for Christian men and women of all ages, but especially for young men. Writing with his trademark timelessness, Ryle’s advice–or rather exhortation–is just as relevant today as it was when it was written. Ryle warns young men of common pitfalls and trends (like pride, an “invincibility” mindset, and a lack of seriousness) and challenges them to pursue holiness now by joining a church, praying, reading God’s Word, and being mindful of life’s brevity. He encourages young men to look beyond themselves and to be whole-hearted disciples now rather than to “put it off” until later in life so that they can be wild and immature now. This is a quick read that will leave a lasting impact.

    “Your soul is the one thing worth living for. It is the part of you which ought always be considered first. No place, no employment is good for you, which injures your soul. No friend, no companion deserves your confidence, who makes light of your soul’s concerns.”

  2. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unforeseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
    In this book Ed Catmull, one of the co-founders of Pixar, does a great job of weaving management principles into the Pixar story without overemphasizing either one. Catmull takes the reader inside Pixar and it’s well-known Braintrust to show how the culture they’ve built allows them to perform at such a high level (and how he and John Lasseter translated that to Disney Animation after their acquisition of Pixar). Many of the principles in the book can be applied to non-creative companies as well. If you’re a fan of the Pixar movies and learning more about corporate culture, then this is the book for you.

    “Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.”

  3. The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken
    Nik Ripken begins the books by sharing how his experiences in East Africa raised several questions in his mind about the goodness of God, the effectiveness of the gospel, and the prevalence of evil. These questions, as well as some personal tragedies, led the author on a new mission: to learn how persecuted Christians in different contexts have not only survived, but thrived. The stories shared in “The Insanity of God” are incredibly convicting: Christians who not only expect persecution to happen but have joy in the midst of it; Christians who pass on the faith from generation to generation, even without a Bible; Christians who share their faith despite the risk to their own health and well-being. It is a challenge to those in America who experience relative freedom and view persecution very differently.

    “Serving God is not a matter of location, but a matter of obedience.”

  4. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
    Reclaiming Conversation gives the reader an insight into the effects an “always connected” culture is having on our ability to relate to ourselves, others, and the world around us. If you have spent any time in an office, coffee shop, restaurant, or other public place recently, you have likely noticed the symptoms yourself: coworkers staring at their phones during important meetings, couples texting others instead of spending time together, teens Snapchatting each other from across the room, or people walking into poles while looking down at their phone. Turkle delves into a variety of challenges that stem from our difficulty putting phones down to converse and experience the moment with others. She also looks at how technology is affecting our family, friendships, romance, education, and work. I’ve touched on this in some past blog posts. Is this a call to abandon technology? No, but hopefully this book will challenge you (like it did me) to take control of your technology instead of letting it take control of you.

    “Relationships deepen not because we necessarily say anything in particular but because we are invested enough to show up for another conversation. In family conversations, children learn that what can matter most is not the information shared but the relationships sustained.”

  5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    In what is considered by some to be the greatest book of all time, Dostoyevsky explores the depths of faith, evil, morality, and religion using the narrative story of three brothers and their repulsive father. Each of the three brothers personifies a particular worldview: Alyosha=morality/faith, Ivan=humanism/doubt, and Dmitri=sensuality. By using these characters, Dostoyevsky shows us what these three worldviews look like as they are lived out in the real world. Like many of us, they struggle with contradictions between their beliefs and actions and face constant challenges to their core beliefs. Through the brothers, the reader is able to wrestle with the same issues. The story is engaging, even if it bounces around quite a bit, but offers plenty of unexpected twists and meaningful insight. It’s definitely a long read, but well worth it (especially if you can listen to it as an audiobook).

    “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

Honorable Mentions:

For an overview of all the books I’ve read this year, click here.

I’d encourage you to take the time to read at least one of these books in 2017. Reading is an invaluable discipline that will help to make you a more well-rounded person in addition to deepening your knowledge.

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 2017? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

BONUS:  My Top 5 Books of 2015 || My Top 5 Books of 2014 || My Top 5 Books of 2013

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We Cannot Be Silent [Book Review]

The rapid pace of cultural change in recent years has caught many Christians off guard. Marriage has been redefined, erotic liberty is taking precedence over religious liberty, and the “moral majority” is becoming the “maligned minority.” Some Christians have reacted with anger and animosity, causing deep pain and hurt. Others have retreated from culture as much as possible, shielding themselves from those they disagree with. Still others have relinquished the clear teaching of Scripture in order to appease the culture.

None of these responses are helpful or biblical. In his new book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong, Dr. Albert Mohler seeks to provide Christians with the worldview framework to respond biblically, boldly, and compassionately to a culture swept up in a sexual revolution.  Read more of this post

My Top 5 Books of 2015

books2015
With 2015 coming to a close, it’s time for a roundup of the top books I’ve read this year. For an overview of all the books I’ve read this year, just click here. Here are quick reviews of the top 5 books I read in 2015:

  1. God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology by Jim Hamilton
    Too often, Christians spend so much time studying individual portions of Scripture that they unconsciously neglect to treat the Bible as a book with a central theme. Approaching Scripture from a macro perspective is called biblical theology. In God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, Hamilton posits that the theme woven throughout the entire Bible is that God mercifully saves His chosen people through the exercise of His righteous judgment, and in doing so brings glory to Himself. Dr. Hamilton goes book by book through Scripture to demonstrate how it all points to this overarching narrative with the culmination of the narrative being the cross of Christ. The best way to use this book in my opinion is to use this Bible reading plan that will pairs God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgement with a daily Scripture reading. By the end of the year, you’ll have read all the way through both, gaining a deeper appreciation for the Bible itself as well as the indescribable creativity and sovereignty of the Author.

    “Without the Bible’s bad news, its good news will have no meaning.” -Jim Hamilton

  2. Real Christianity by William Wilberforce
    It’s amazing how relevant Wilberforce’s book is for Christians today (in fact, one of the marks of a great writer is the timelessness of their work). In Real Christianity, Wilberforce confronts the dangers of cultural Christianity that claims the name of Christ, but fails to actually follow its doctrines, commands, and precepts. He outlines characteristics of nominal Christians and contrasts their lifestyles and beliefs with those of real Christians, who live their lives in pursuit of holiness. As you read this book, you’ll be convicted to examine your own life to see if you have more in common with the nominal Christian Wilberforce describes or the true Christian described in Scripture.

    “Why is it so hard to get people to study the Scriptures? Common sense tells us what revelation commands: ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’–‘Search the Scriptures’–‘Be ready to give to every one a reason of the hope that is in you.’ These are the words of the inspired writers, and these injunctions are confirmed by praising those who obey the admonition. And yet, for all that we have the Bible in our houses, we are ignorant of its contents. No wonder that so many Christians know so little about what Christ actually taught; no wonder that they are so mistaken about the faith that they profess.” -William Wilberforce

  3. Good to Great by Jim Collins
    Good to Great offers a lot of solid advice for building a great organization, regardless of size or profit/nonprofit status. While many of the concepts are broad in scope and may need some adjustment based on your organization and industry, Collins and his team point out some key factors that result in a transition from a mediocre company to a great one. The book emphasizes that lasting change often takes time, hard work, and intentionality to achieve, even if it looks like an overnight transformation from the outside.

    “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” -Jim Collins

  4. How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaffer
    In How Should We Then Live? Schaeffer does an admirable job of showing the progression of Western thought by showing the impact that worldview has on a culture’s philosophy, art, music, and writing. The main objective of the book is to show the necessity of having a Christocentric foundation in order to live a life that has real meaning and purpose. As Western thought has drifted from that foundation, replacing it with other foundations or removing the foundation all together, culture has tended to decline in general. He ends the book by encouraging people, especially Christians, to actively engage the culture to point out worldview inconsistencies and give a strong defense for the viability of a Christian worldview.

    “There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind — what they are in their thought-world determines how they act. This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity. It is true of their corporate actions, such as political decisions, and it is true of their personal lives. The results of their thought-world flow through their fingers or from their tongues into the external world.” -Francis Schaeffer

  5. The Sports Gene by David Epstein
    This is an entertaining read for any sports fan. In the Sports Gene, David Epstein travels the world in search of research that shows the factors that set elite athletes apart from the rest of humanity. Along the way, he tackles topics like genetics, training, diet, race, and “nature vs. nurture.” Epstein is honest in the findings he presents and doesn’t shy away from any potential controversy that comes along with some of these more sensitive areas. In the end, Epstein concludes that there is no single “sports gene”, but that athleticism is a complex combination of internal and external factors that contribute to athletic prowess.

Honorable Mentions

I hope that you find these short reviews helpful and that you’ll take the time 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 2016? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

BONUS: My Top 5 Books of 2013 || My Top 5 Books of 2014

Parables [Book Review]

Storytelling is all the rage these days. Whether in the business world or the church, everyone is being encouraged to tell their story. One of the primary reasons for this trend is that storytelling, when done well, is a highly effective way to package truth in a way that conveys abstract concepts through relatable daily experiences.

In his newest book Parables: The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed in the Stories Jesus Told, John MacArthur writes about one of history’s master storytellers: Jesus of Nazareth.

Why did Jesus use stories? Early in His ministry, Jesus actually didn’t use parables that often, but as opposition to His message mounted, He made the shift to storytelling. Since parables communicate propositional truth in a narrative format, Jesus could use them to both conceal and reveal truth about Himself and His kingdom. MacArthur explains: “Jesus’ parables had a clear twofold purpose: They hid the truth from self-righteous or self-satisfied people who fancied themselves too sophisticated to learn from Him, while the same parables revealed truth to eager souls with childlike faith–those who were hungering and thirsting for righteousness.”  Read more of this post

Rise [Book Review]

“Enjoy yourself while you can.”
“Don’t grow up too fast.”
“You’re too young to make a difference.”

If you’re like me, you’ve heard one of these phrases at some point in your life. Not much is expected of young people, especially in today’s culture of extended adolescence. This is reinforced by peers, parents, media, universities, and cultural in general. Just a few generations ago, many of our grandfathers were fighting wars on foreign soils while today it’s a challenge for young people to get to class or work on time, much less stand up for something they believe in.

Because of the convergence of these two factors, low expectations from others and low motivation for young people, there is a general stereotype that Millennials are apathetic. Of course, the reluctance of young people to make a difference isn’t a new problem. Almost two thousand years ago, Paul wrote to his young friend and mentee Timothy: “let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). 

To address this persistent problem, Trip Lee wrote Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story, a companion book to his latest album by the same name. This book is aimed right at young people, challenging them to live a holy life now, instead of waiting until later in life to “get serious about their faith.” Trip writes: “There are great benefits to living for Jesus in the present. Now is the time when we have the most strength. Now is the time when we have the most energy. Now is the time when we can give it everything we have. Now is the time to get up and live.”  Read more of this post

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

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