My Top 5 Books of 2017

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With 2017 coming to a close, it’s time for the annual round up of my favorite books from the past year:

  1. 51wut-kk3rlThe Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance–Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair Ferguson
    In the 1700s a debate, known as the Marrow Controversy, arose in Scotland. The controversy centered on how salvation comes about and the respective roles of law and grace. Ferguson goes beyond the controversy itself and expands the themes into modern times where we still struggle with legalism, antinomianism, and assurance of salvation. While few are outright legalists or antinomians, like those confronted in the Marrow Controversy we tend to drift into shades of these two extremes. As Ferguson so helpfully points out, the remedy for either extreme is not the other extreme, but the grace found in our union with Christ. This is a must-read for any believer, not only because of the personal edification you will receive, but also for the implications it has on the way we minister to each other in our pursuit of holiness on the way to our heavenly home.

    “Antinomianism and legalism are not so much antithetical to each other as they are both antithetical to grace. This is why Scripture never prescribes one as the antidote for the other. Rather grace, God’s grace in Christ in our union with Christ, is the antidote to both.”

  2. 51nvavpgjklHere I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton
    With 2017 being the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I set out to learn more about the Reformers before heading to Europe with my brother. Bainton’s biography of Martin Luther gives an in-depth and honest look into the life of the man who started it all.  Here I Stand details the events leading up to the Reformation and the ramifications that the Reformation had (and continues to have) on all areas of life: economic, political, familial, social, and spiritual.

    “A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it.” -Martin Luther

  3. 51jf2bcjadfl-_sy346_The Gospel Call and True Conversion by Paul Washer
    What does it truly mean to hear the gospel and become a Christian? This is a massively important question and Washer’s book gives a succinct answer to it. In addition, it is a welcome antidote for the challenge of nominal Christianity (people who claim to be converted, but are not). Washer also emphasizes the implications of conversion for the entire church, not just the individual.

    “We must learn to console and assure the weakest saint who is broken over his many sins, but we must also learn to warn the false convert whose life is a barren and fruitless tree and whose settled manner of living is a contradiction to the gospel.”

  4. 41whpvpy2bmlEvangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by Mack Stiles
    Evangelism is an often talked about, and dreaded, spiritual discipline. Stiles’ premise in Evangelism is that many evangelism efforts fail because they are viewed as programs or taken on individually instead of cooperatively. This short and beneficial book challenges us to reframe evangelism as a community effort. A culture of evangelism more closely mirrors Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9. Evangelism isn’t a book with a new step-by-step program or a clever alliterated outline–it’s an encouragement to join hands with other Christians to share the gospel with others.

    “Defining evangelism in a biblical way helps us align our evangelistic practice with the Scriptures. Here’s a definition that has served me well for many years: Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.”“There is much room for humility when it comes to evangelism. We need to acknowledge that God is sovereign and can do as he wills to bring people to himself. There is no formula that dictates how God must work in evangelism. And though we may disagree with the evangelistic practices of individuals, ministries, or churches, we must also recognize that when people develop good-hearted commitments to evangelism, God can produce true fruit. I, for one, will take people practicing evangelism as best they can over those who forgo evangelism until they have the perfect practice.”

  5. 51enlmlxbzlEscaping the Price-Driven Sale: How World Class Sellers Create Extraordinary Profit by Tom Snyder and Kevin Kearns
    Are you tired of annoying salespeople? Escaping the Price-Driven Sale encourages a consultative and strategic approach to marketing and sales that constantly adds value for the client or prospect. The salesperson can do this through discovering unrecognized problems, identifying unanticipated solutions, exploring unseen opportunities, and brokering strengths. This is a helpful read for anyone involved in high-value sales that will set you apart from the competition.

Honorable Mentions:

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

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 2018? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

BONUS:  My Top 5 Books of 2016 || 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 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

Jesus>Religion [Book Review]

Christianity in America has an image problem.

Unfortunately, when many people hear the word “Christian,” they often envision one of three types of person: 1) an angry legalist who holds signs, burns Qur’ans, and gives you a list of things you can and can’t do to be a “good Christian” [ie the Westboro cult] 2) a person who claims to be a Christian (or wears a cross around their neck) for the benefits, but who’s life is no different than any ordinary person who doesn’t follow Jesus [ie celebrities/artists/athletes] 3) an individual who’s theology is so watered-down that it sounds more like the phrases at the bottom of motivational posters than anything Jesus would say [ie Joel Osteen]. In our culture, it is these so-called “Christians” that get the loudest voice in the media because they are easy to refute/mock (for example, Joel Osteen makes the rounds on the talk and news shows, but you rarely see a true Christian intellectual like Al Mohler). As a result, those that are truly following Jesus must overcome these false perceptions as they seek to fulfill their mission: to make disciples of all nations through the power of the gospel.

Enter Jefferson Bethke. You may remember him from this: The above poem went viral and became a major topic of discussion on social media sites as well as in the blogosphere (including one of my blog posts). When a video goes viral it’s usually for one of three reasons: 1) it’s dumb, ridiculous, and makes us laugh 2) it inspires awe in the viewer 3) it strikes a chord with many in a society. Jefferson’s video falls into that third category. It brought out something that many Americans felt was important and wanted to discuss: Some have been hurt by false moralistic or legalistic religion. Others think the church is broken and beyond repair. Still others genuinely want to pursue Jesus Christ with everything they have.

I’ll admit: I had mixed feelings about the video when it came out. As Kevin DeYoung put it, “There is so much helpful in this poem mixed with so much unhelpful.” However, it is evident that Jefferson has matured a lot since posting the initial video (thanks to the discipleship of Christian leaders and his humility). In order to flesh out his views on Jesus, Christianity, and religion, Jefferson has written the book Jesus>Religion (which launches today). The book uses the contrast between Jesus and religion to accomplish the dual goal of addressing false perceptions of Christianity while presenting a true picture of what followers of Jesus look like.  Read more of this post

The Post-Church Christian [Book Review]

I am one of the 80 million millennials born between 1982 and 2000. We are known to be tech-savvy agents of change who treasure flexibility, relationships, authenticity, and individual expression. Because of these and other unique qualities of my generation, we experience friction with other generations from time to time. Often, the friction is healthy and leads to mutual understanding, growth, and stronger bonds between generations. However, the friction sometimes results in hurt, misunderstanding, and separation.

As the College Ministry Director at a church in a Southern town that is also home to a Christian college, I deal with the results of the friction between baby boomers, millennials, and the church on a frequent basis. I have met many of my fellow millennials who have been “hurt/burned/disillusioned” by the church, so much so that they have given up on it completely. Some of the stories are heartbreaking and valid, but many have withdrawn as the result of generational differences of opinion on what the church should be and do. To them, the church doesn’t feel like home anymore. They still love Jesus, but have become dissatisfied with the church. So the question arises: “Do you need to be a part of the church to follow Jesus?”  Read more of this post

“Who Do You Say That I Am?”

Palm Sunday 2007

Today Christians around the world celebrate Palm Sunday, kicking off what is known as Holy Week. The week begins with the commemoration of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey with crowds waving palm branches, laying down their coats, and shouting “Hosanna!” (Matt 21:9). Other days during Holy Week have significant meanings: Maundy Thursday celebrates the Last Supper, Good Friday reflects on the trial and death of Jesus on the cross at Calvary, and Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

One of the sobering things about Holy Week is the attitude of the crowds toward Jesus. As you read from Matthew 21 to Matthew 28, the crowds of people go from enthusiastically chanting “Hosanna!” to angrily yelling “Crucify Him!”  What caused this sudden change?

A Grand Entrance

Imagine the scene recounted in Matthew 21:1-11. The city of Jerusalem is a bustle of energy as Jews from all over the Mediterranean area are in town for the upcoming Passover celebration. The sound of animals can be heard all over the city as traders bring their livestock to sell in order to be sacrificed as an offering to the Lord. Vendors are crowd the streets selling their goods to all the visitors to the city. Priests and religious leaders are hustling around getting the Temple ready for the big day. Read more of this post

The Transforming Gospel

This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry youth group on Wednesday, September 15, 2010.

To see tweets related to this sermon when I spoke at the Gathering, a student-led worship service at John Brown University, on February 13,2011, click here.

After reading Romans 12:1-8, it is evident that an encounter with the saving grace of Jesus Christ is a transformational experience. The first 11 chapters of Romans go into in-depth and intimate theological detail of what the Gospel is. So before moving on, let me summarize what the Gospel is:
a. Righteous Creator- God
b. Rebellious Sinner- Humanity
c. Resulting Punishment- Judgment
d. Redeeming Savior- Jesus Christ
e. Repentant Faith- Response
*Adapted from What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

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(re)Orientation

This past week I had the opportunity to be an O-Group leader during new student Orientation at John Brown University. I had not been a part of Orientation since my freshman year (I am now a senior). After being a part of it again, I highly recommend it to any returning students, but especially seniors. Why is that? Orientation was a reminder of why I am at JBU and what it means to be a part of the JBU community.

Read more of this post

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