What a year! With all the joys that come with the birth of my son and the trials regarding his health this year, I am so thankful for the way that God has shown me his grace in the books that I have had the privilege of reading either that were sent to me for review, given as gifts, or ones that have been sitting on the shelf for some time. I am constantly surprised at how God show himself to me through the books that he offers to me just when I need them.
Of the 53 books I have read this year, I wanted to share the ones that have meant the most to me. Perhaps they would make great Christmas gifts for people in your life or you may find that they mean something to you as they did for me.
Here, then, are my top 3 picks of the year, followed by some honorable mentions:
Holiness by Grace
by Brian Chapell
This was a fantastic book! I read this in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit when my son was under sedation for days and on full ventilation after his trachostemy surgery. Dr. Chapell tells a moving story about a mother whose child turned blue during the baby’s first feeding after birth. It was a great comfort to me in a time where I was completely helpless to do anything for my son, just as each of us are helpless to do anything that is truly pleasing to God, apart from the finished work of Christ. Holiness by Grace is about how not only are we saved by grace, but we are perfected and sanctified by Christ’s work on our behalf.
Click here for full review.
Unleashed: Release the Untamed Faith Within by Erwin Raphael McManus
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
What is living the Christian life supposed to look like? If we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, how different should our life look? In his book Unleashed: Release the Untamed Faith Within, Erwin McManus seeks to answer those questions using an unlikely metaphor: a barbarian.
Previously released as The Barbarian Way, McManus argues that the life of the Christian should not be about getting all of life’s comforts or about awaiting our lives to start in the next. Instead he sees the power of the Christian life as one which challenges us to live dangerously, to take risks, and to discover uncharted territory in our world. Essentially, McManus teaches that to live the Christian life means to be a daredevil, and those who are not taking grand scale risks are not living the life that Christ died for us to live.
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The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us? The Answer that Changed my Life and Might Just Change the World by Richard Stearns
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
What does it look like to live as a Christian? Being a Christian means that we are assured of our salvation through nothing more than the atoning work of Christ on the cross, yet in the Bible we are challenged to live for Christ who died in our place.
The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? is a book by Richard Stearns who serves a the president of World Vision in which he tells his own story of being a Christian, but living a life that did not reflect his faith in terms of his acts of charity to others. He points out passages in Scripture that show that the life of the Christian is different and that we should be producing fruits that are in line with that change. Admittedly, in telling the story of his life as a Christian, Stearns acknowledges that he is not a theologian. As I critique his book, keep in mind that while I appreciate his challenge I am not especially thrilled with how he comes to his conclusion. Is there a hole in the gospel or is there a worm in our fruit?
Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels by Tullian Tchividjian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When you hear the name Jonah, what usually goes through your head? It is the big fish (or whale for you non-biology majors)? That is what I usually think about (that and the Veggie Tales song). Oddly enough, the story is much more than that. Surprise!
Seriously, though in his book Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels, Tullian Tchividjian [chuh-vi-gin] brings out the beauty of the gospel through the life and message of Jonah to the evil city of Nineveh. In very accessible prose, Pastor Tullian talks about how Jonah himself is the message about what the gospel means, and how offensive it can be to see God’s mercy at work in the lives of people who seem to deserve far less.
Ironically, seen through the lens of the gospel, Jonah finds himself in just as much need of God’s grace and salvation as the people in Nineveh and those who manned the boat to take him in the other direction. And as we take this journey with the prophet, we find ourselves peering through those same eyes of cellphone and find our deep need staring back at us.
Surprised by Grace is a challenging reminder that we are all in the same boat and in the same city, both in desparate need of a loving, compassionate, merciful, and forgiving God. All the glory to him because he saw our need, showed up in the flesh, and did what we could not do on our behalf.