Didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas? Buy yourself a good book!
As you start the new year, I hope one of your goals will be to pick up a book that draws you closer to God. Few things have shaped me as much as my habit of devotional reading, so I find myself constantly suggesting books to others as they’re wrestling with a certain question or struggle. That gave birth to the idea of a favorite reads list a year ago.
Just like last year, I’ve got some good ones to mention. I tried to stay with the same categories – devotional, ministry, theology, and leadership – but, honestly, I didn’t read any ministry books that blew me away in 2011, so I’m skipping that one and recommending two books in the devotional category instead.
Here they are, My Favorite Reads of 2011.
My Devotional Picks:
My teaching at ClearView has been pretty topical this fall, and I’m craving the chance to do an extended series on Jesus this spring. In part, my hunger to know and help others know Jesus has been reawakened by these two books which focus on his life.
Eldredge’s book, Beautiful Outlaw, has a laser-like focus. Ever notice how in some books the chapters seem independent of each other, and, while you might have several takeaways, there’s no singular, lasting impression made? This is not that.
Each chapter shares the same aim – to illuminate Jesus. To show us who he was and is. To show us the Jesus we can know today, free of religious baggage or branding. Why shine the spotlight on Jesus? As Eldredge says,
“Loving Jesus will not be a problem when you know him as he truly is.”
You may have already encountered Eldredge’s writings about spirituality and masculinity, but the uniqueness of this book is its tight focus on Jesus’ life. He does a great job revealing Jesus’ personality and likability as he walks through story after story from the four gospels.
If Eldredge’s book is a spotlight, consider King’s Cross by Tim Keller a map that situates Jesus’ life and teachings within both the narrative arc of the Bible and the first-century world in which he lived.
Section one builds to the conclusion that yes, Jesus is the long awaited King (Messiah). Section two explains why this King went to the cross. Thus, Keller is concerned with both Jesus’ identity and his redemptive purpose. For example,
“Christianity…is not a completely new thing. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the biblical prophets’ longings and visions, and he is the one who will come to rule and renew the entire universe.”
These two books, though quite different, both make you desire Jesus. Neither is perfect (though I think their strengths and weaknesses are complementary), but both are really, really helpful.
My Leadership Pick:
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
I picked up this book, a synthesis of positive psychology research, on a whim. Next thing I know, I’ve ordered and read half a dozen books in that area.
If you’re not familiar, positive psychology is a relatively new academic interest that benefits not only from psychology but also new findings in neuroscience that show (a) it is possible to become happier, (b) we don’t have to guess anymore about what makes us happier, and (c) it’s worth it to pursue this happiness. As Achor puts it,
“It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.”
I’ve heard way too many people give up on the possibility of transformation, saying things like “I’ll always be this way,” or “I can’t help my circumstances” and even “It’s just how God made me.” This book opens up a world of science that confirms what Scripture has always said about the possibility of change and the importance of the choices we make each day.
My Theology Pick:
Why? by Adam Hamilton
Say what you will about Adam Hamilton, the man is not afraid to ask and answer tough questions. In this book, he does a remarkable job handling three hugely difficult theological queries: Why do the innocent suffer? Why do my prayers go unanswered? and Why can’t I see God’s will for my life?
Oh, and he does it all in 98 pages.
That’s amazing. This book should encourage any Christ-follower, but could also benefit those for whom the “Why?” questions are an obstacle to belief. To the latter of those two groups, he says,
“Rejecting God doesn’t change the situation that has caused our suffering; it only removes the greatest source of hope, help, comfort, and strength we have.”
A clear, concise book on a difficult topic.
Surely one of these has piqued your interest! Leave a comment and let me know which one you’re likely to read or tell me what you think should be on my reading list next. As always, thanks!
Like this post? Check out these related posts:
- Favorite Reads of 2010
I buy books. The kind that are made of paper....