Books. I love them. It's so funny, for the first half of my life the only thing you could get me to read was maybe an article out of Sports Illustrated. But over time, as God opened my eyes more and more to His beauty and wonder, He made me into a reader.
This year I was blessed to read many great books. Just for fun, let me share ten of my favorite little-known reads of 2017, in no particular order. These are all books I highly recommend checking out.
1. Renewal as a Way of Life: A Guidebook for Spiritual Growth, by Richard Lovelace.
His book, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, is one of my all-time favorites from my seminary days. I have heard of this companion book for years but had never read it. It is gold. Lovelace applies Gospel truth to the heart in a very unique and powerful way.
2. The Christian Looks at Himself, by Anthony Hoekema.
This was a book I had never even heard of before a good friend mentioned it in passing many months ago. It is a study in self-image from a biblical perspective and it is life-changing. Hoekema sets out to show the reader that "in Christ, we are made into new creatures. This does not mean that redeemed people live a life of sinless perfection; it does mean that what is most distinctive about them is their new life in Christ."
3. How to Understand and Apply the New Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology, by Andrew Naselli
One of the best introductory texts on New Testament interpretation and hermeneutics I have read. Whether you are a new Christian, or a seasoned student of the Bible, you will gain much from reading this excellent book.
4. Life of John Murray, by Iain Murray
I have read Murray's theological works for years. If you have never read, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, treat yourself to it as soon as you can. What a joy it was to read of the life of this legendary theologian from Westminster Seminary. While everyone knows the brilliance of Murray, his humility and loving heart toward God and people shines through in this one. It doesn't hurt that Iain Murray is my favorite biographer...this is a true gem.
5. How Does Sanctification Work?, by David Powlison
Powlison is a true physician of the soul. His books have ministered to my heart for years. This book is no different. "Weaving together personal stories, biblical exposition, and theological reflection, David Powlison shows the personal and particular ways that God meets you where you are to produce change."
6. No Little Places: The Untapped Potential of the Small-Town Church, by Ron Klassen
I love to read of God's work in small town churches. This book is all about it. Even though it is over twenty years old, I found these pages to be filled with all kinds of practical, biblical wisdom and encouragement for small town pastors and churches. I really enjoyed this one.
7. The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America, by Thomas Kidd
The best introduction to the Great Awakening I have read. Kidd is quickly becoming one of my favorite historians along with George Marsden and Mark Noll. Highly recommended.
8. Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer: In Our Homes, Communities, and Churches, by Megan Hill
While there are many, many wonderful books that have been written on prayer, this book is very unique. What I loved about it is the vision Hill lays out, not simply for individual, personal prayer, but for praying together as the body of Christ...in our homes, churches, and communities. God used this book to help set fresh fire in my heart for our church's weekly prayer meeting.
9. No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God, by Aimee Byrd
I love reading and learning from Aimee Byrd. She is rock solid theologically and always stretches me to think deeply on issues in the church and culture. In this book, Aimee, a reformed complementarian, discusses some of the ways pastors can more effectively care for and minister to women in the church. I agree with Aimee that "strengthening women in the church strengthens the whole church." I recommend every pastor read this one.
10. The Deacon: The Biblical Roots and the Ministry of Mercy Today, by Cornelis Van Dam
There are two primary biblical offices in the church according to Scripture: the pastor/elder and the deacon. We must get these two offices right if we are to lead healthy, vibrant, biblical churches. While much in recent years has been written on the office of pastor/elder (and for that I am grateful!), there are few biblically rich studies I have been able to find on the office of deacon. Van Dam's book was a timely one for me. It is biblically and theologically rich, while being very practical and enjoyable to read. A rare combination.