11 Books I'll Read 2011

I didn't enjoy or understand the value of reading until shortly after my conversion. I was an 18 year old High School graduate who had only read four books to date: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Silver Bullet by Stephen King, some science fiction novel, and Anton LaVey's The Satanic Bible. Yes it's possible to not ready any books in High School if you don't mind graduating at the very bottom of your class (I think I was second to last). As a new Christian I didn't know most of the biblical stories, so I read Scripture constantly trying to educate myself as much as possible. In Scripture I found life and transforming grace. I loved reading the Bible, but reading other books didn't immediately appeal to me. One day I was in a Christian book store and came across John MacArthur's Our Sufficiency in Christ. A week later I had read that book and my mind had been changed on the value of books. From that point on I was always reading something, seeking to benefit from good teachers.

Over 20 years later I still love to read and am always on the look for books that will challenge me, instruct me, and help me to see Jesus more clearly. And as a pastor I am also looking for books I can pass on to others to help them in their faith at whatever stage they are at. Here are 11 of the books I am looking forward to reading in 2011, complete with links and publisher's descriptions. Some of these I should have read in 2010, others aren't coming out until later in 2011. But here are 11 I am excited to get into, in no particular order.

Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry Mike Wilkerson

Exodus is a real story about God redeeming his people from the bondage of slavery and how their difficult journey home exposed their loyalties—though wounded by Egypt, they had come to worship its gods. Most Christians don’t make golden idols like the Israelites in the wilderness, but we do set up idols on our own desert road—idols like substance abuse, pornography, gluttony, and rage. And even those who don’t know the pain of actual slavery can feel enslaved to the fear and shame that follow sexual abuse or betrayal by a spouse, for we suffer at the hands of our idols as well as those created by others. We need more than self-improvement or comfort—we need redemption.

Redemption is not a step-oriented recovery book; it’s story-oriented and Bible-anchored. It unfolds the back-story of redemption in Exodus to help Christians better understand how Christ redeems us from the slavery of abuse, addiction and assorted trouble and restores us to our created purpose, the worship of God. Readers will discover that the reward of freedom is more than victory over a habitual sin or release from shame; it is satisfaction and rest in God himself. Part of the Re:Lit series.

King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus Tim Keller

King's Cross is Timothy Keller's revelatory look at the life of Christ as told in the Gospel of Mark. There have been many biographies of Jesus, but few will be as anticipated as one by Keller, the man Newsweek calls "a C.S. Lewis for the twenty-first century." In it, Keller shows how the story of Jesus is at once cosmic, historical, and personal, calling each of us to look anew at our relationship with God. Like Keller's other books it has tremendous crossover appeal, but it is also ideal for the faithful, those who are looking for a closer connection to Jesus and Christianity.

Gospel Wakefulness Jared C. Wilson

We may know the gospel. We may believe it—even proclaim it. But we also may assume the gospel and become lethargic. In this book Jared Wilson seeks to answer the central question, how do we experience and present the gospel in a fresh, non-routine way in order to prevent ourselves and others from becoming numb? His answer may be surprising: “by routinely presenting the unchanging gospel in a way that does justice to its earth-shaking announcement.” We don’t excite and awaken people to the glorious truths of the gospel by spicing up our worship services or through cutting-edge, dramatic rhetoric, but by passionately and faithfully proclaiming the same truths we have already been given in Scripture.

A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table Tim Chester

Meals have always been important across societies and cultures, a time for friends and families to come together. An important part of relationships, meals are vital to our social health. Author Tim Chester sums it up: “Food connects.”

Chester argues that meals are also deeply theological—an important part of Christian fellowship and mission. He observes that the book of Luke is full of stories of Jesus at meals. These accounts lay out biblical principles. Chester notes, “The meals of Jesus represent something bigger.” Six chapters in A Meal with Jesus show how they enact grace, community, hope, mission, salvation, and promise.

Moving from biblical times to the modern world, Chester applies biblical truth to challenge our contemporary understandings of hospitality. He urges sacrificial giving and loving around the table, helping readers consider how meals can be about serving others and sharing the grace of Christ.

The Discipline of Grace: God's Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness Jerry Bridges

We know we need grace. Without it we'd never come to Christ in the first place. But being a Christian is more than just coming to Christ. It's about growing and becoming more like Jesus. It's about pursing holiness. The pursuit of holiness is hard work, and that's were we turn from grace to discipline. Grace is every bit as important for growing as a Christian as it is for becoming a Christian in the first place. Grace is at the heart of the gospel, and without a clear understanding of the gospel and grace we can easily slip into a performance based lifestyle that bears little resemblance to what the gospel has to offer us. The Discipline Of Grace offers a clear and thorough explanation of the gospel and what it means to the believer, and how the same grace that brings us to faith in Christ also disciplines us in Christ, and how we learn to discipline ourselves in the areas of commitment, convictions, choices, watchfulness, and adversity. The Discipline Of Grace is highly recommended reading for anyone struggling to overcome the world in Christ.

Don't Call it a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day Various Authors

Recent cultural interest in evangelicalism has led to considerable confusion about what the term actually means. Many young Christians are tempted to discard the label altogether. But evangelicalism is not merely a political movement in decline or a sociological phenomenon on the rise, as it has sometimes been portrayed. It is, in fact, a helpful theological profile that manifests itself in beliefs, ethics, and church life.

DeYoung and other key twenty- and thirty-something evangelical Christian leaders present Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Same Evangelical Faith for a New Day to assert the stability, relevance, and necessity of Christian orthodoxy today. This book introduces young, new, and under-discipled Christians to the most essential and basic issues of faith in general and of evangelicalism in particular.

Jesus and Israel: One Covenant or Two? Michael E Holwerda

Revisiting the important topic of covenant fulfillment, Reformed theologian David Holwerda argues that God's promises to Old Testament Israel cannot be understood apart from Jesus Christ. Based on careful exposition of key New Testament texts-including a significant in-depth study of Romans 9-11-in dialogue with a wide variety of interpreters and theologians, Holwerda maintains that the Old Testament promises of God find their complete fulfillment in Jesus Christ and the church.

The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life Bradley G. Green

"Green poses the question as to why is there so little written on the relationship between the cross and the life of the mind? His book is a riveting response to this lack. In an age when postmodernism seems to have reinforced the oft held notions that the human mind and knowledge are unimportant we need some guidance on the authentic Christian attitude to both. With a focus on creation and the cross, Green’s study looks at the relationship between biblical Christianity and the human intellectual endeavor. He argues with great clarity that the postmodern age is no longer interested in knowledge, and that only by a return to the Christian view of both past and future can the present have real meaning. This is a much needed and timely response to the contemporary Zeitgeist.” —Graeme Goldsworthy

Man Vs. Lust: A Young Man's Guide to Sexual Purity David DeBoor Canfield

Man Vs. Lust is a primer for young men about one of God's greatest gifts - sex. In frank, funny fashion, David Canfield lays out not just why things like internet porn are bad - but why sex is good. The young reader will learn not only how to dodge the pitfalls of lust, but how to understand and prepare for the joys of sex done God's way.

“Because of the pervasive immorality of our culture, many young Christian men wish they had a godly Dutch uncle who would take them aside and tell it to them straight. Well, they do have one and he wrote a short, little book for them—this one. David Canfield has good sense and good humor in equal measure, and I trust that many young men will find this book very helpful.” --Douglas Wilson

A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones

Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) was a faithful pastor, Westminster divine, advisor to Oliver Cromwell, and president of Magdalen College, Oxford. In this book, Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones acquaint the reader with Goodwin through an informative biographical introduction. The remainder of the book, 35 selections from across the works of Goodwin, displays Goodwin's constant attention to Christ in his various theological engagements. You will learn much about the life and works of this influential Puritan, and perhaps, be strengthened with a habitual sight of Christ.

This is part of the "Profiles in Reformed Spirituality" series, and you should just put them all on your wish list.

Prayer and the Knowledge of God: What the Whole Bible Teaches Graeme Goldsworthy

Is it really possible to talk to God? Does he listen to us? How do we know what to say? Will it make any difference if we pray? Prayer is central to Christian faith and life and such questions are fundamental. While much teaching on prayer adresses practical issues and is experience-oriented, Graeme Goldsworthy's conviction is that good practice comes from a foundation of good biblical understanding. In this accessible and wide-ranging study, Goldsworthy explores the reality of God, the ministry of Jesus Christ, and our experience of being his redeemed people as the grounds for prayer, which he defines as "talking to God." Using a biblical-theological approach, he examines the principles that lie behind particular texts in Scripture, and he maps out the "progress" of prayer from Genesis to Revelation. He explains the basis for prayer, its role in our fellowship with God, and what is involved in Christian prayer. Above all, Goldworthy's desire is to encourage Christians in their praying, through a better understanding of, and reflection on, the "big story" of the whole Bible.

What books are you looking forward to reading next year?