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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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

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

The Dude’s Guide to Manhood [Book Review]

What does it mean to be a man?

While this question could be answered with a simple biological definition, manhood is much more complex than one’s anatomy. True manhood expresses itself in the character, actions, and pursuits of a man.

However, our culture has a shortage of true men. So how did we get to this point?

In the introduction to his book The Dude’s Guide to Manhood: Finding True Manliness in a World of Counterfeits, Darrin Patrick says the problem is that “many men are simply unprepared to face the journey of manhood, in part because they have never been prepared in the first place.” Somewhere along the way, our culture misplaced the road map to manhood. Of course, many factors have contributed to this drift: the rise in divorces and single-parent homes, the removal of traditional rites of passage, and the attempt to remove traditional gender distinctives, just to name a few.

This lack of preparation for men has led to a culture filled with males stuck in a prolonged boyhood and adolescence: avoiding responsibility, lacking passion, and letting life pass them by as they escape in their careers, video games, sports, and/or porn. Or as Patrick puts it, “Many of us [men] avoid real life and escape into a psuedoreality that is more comfortable and less taxing than our own lives.”

To address this problem, Darrin has thoughtfully outlined what true manliness looks like in The Dude’s Guide to Manhood. Usually you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but when the cover looks like this one, you know it’s going to be a winner! Read more of this post

My Top 5 Books of 2013

books

2013 is coming to an end which means it’s the time of year when every blogger does a year-end wrap-up post of some sort.

Since I like reading, here are the top 5 books I read in 2013:

  1. Holiness: It’s Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots by J.C. Ryle
    By far one of the most impactful books on my Christian faith that I have ever read. Pursuit of personal holiness is one fo the most neglected areas for many Christians today. Ryle skillfully exposits 20 short passages related to holiness and powerfully applies them for his readers. He delves into topics like sanctification, fighting sin, counting the cost to follow Christ, and bringing glory to God in all areas of life. Though it was written in 19th-century England, 21st-century American readers will have no trouble relating to many of the themes he addresses since there are many parallels between Christianity in the two periods. I highly recommend this book to any Christian.

    “Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.” -J.C. Ryle

  2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
    As an introvert in an extroverted world, this book definitely resonated with me. Cain provides some intriguing research on the difference between introverts and extroverts (and the complex relationship the two have with each other). She also highlights the strengths of introverts while recommending the kind of work environments that introverts can place themselves in to excel. Whether you are extroverted or introverted, this is a wonderful book that will help you understand, relate to, and lead the introverts in your life.

    “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured…Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.” -Susan Cain

  3. Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. by David Platt
    Nominal Christianity is one of the most difficult challenges for the church today. In Follow Me, Platt makes the case that every Christian should be involved in making disciples in one way or another whether that is evangelism, missions (local or global), or edification of believers (individuals or groups). He outlines what it means to be a Christian and offers a lot of practical application for people to become disciple-makers. Platt also challenges those who claim the name of Christ, but doesn’t have a desire to grow in knowledge of Christ and share it with others, to reexamine if they are truly saved. A great read for Christians of any maturity level.

    “Making disciples of Jesus is the overflow of our delight in being disciples of Jesus.” -David Platt

  4. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
    Ever wonder why some products, ideas, or styles take off and others fall flat? Then read this book. Gladwell explains the three elements that commonly work together to make something “tip” and saturate a group (or groups) of people. With a handful of poignant examples and admonitions, he shows how utilizing these three elements can cause your idea to spread faster than any multi-million dollar advertising campaign. A recommended book for anyone interested in ideas, marketing, or business in general.

    “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” -Malcolm Gladwell

  5. The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God’s Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love by Greg Forster
    Calvinism often gets a bad rap for being overly-intellectual, harsh, emotionless, and cold. Forster’s Joy of Calvinism explores the entirety of Scripture to show that this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the Reformed doctrines of God’s grace are a source of immense comfort, motivation, and joy. Forster clearly explains how Calvinism stems from the character of God as loving Father and merciful Judge, framing his discussion around four aspects of God’s love (as opposed to arguing from the five points of Calvinism aka TULIP). Overall, a short and deep explanation of Reformed theology ideal for Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike.

    “Few would disagree with the statement that a true Christian is a person who clings for salvation, not to the church; not to the sacraments; not to the Bible; not even to the proclamation of the gospel or the believer’s belief in it; but to the cross and the empty tomb. Calvinism is just the systematic application of this truth in all doctrine, piety, and life.” -Greg Forster

Honorable Mentions:

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. Also be looking for more book reviews (like this and this) in the coming year now that I’m part of BookSneeze and NetGalley. Happy reading!

Read any of these books or have any that would recommend reading in 2014? Tell me about them in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

Quotes from Passion 2013

This is the final post in the Passion 2013 series

Last week I had the blessing to take a group of college and career students from Harvard Avenue Baptist Church to the 2013 Passion Conference. The four-day conference, held in the Georgia Dome, featured speakers like  Beth Moore, Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, and John Piper in addition to worship led by Chris Tomlin, Kristian Standfill, Charlie Hall, Christy Nockles, Matt Redman, Jesus Culture, and David Crowder (plus a short concert by Lecrae). This year’s conference was attended by 60,000 18-25 year olds from all 50 states and 50 different countries. In addition, over $3 million was donated to end modern day slavery (CNN story) as a part of the End It Movement.  Read more of this post

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