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5 Excellent Christian Books I Read in 2016


The five books I would like to share with you touch on topics that don’t get as much attention as they should:

  • The Holy Spirit,
  • Discipleship,
  • Prayer, and
  • Persecution.

Here we go…

Jesus, Continued…

jesuscontinuedIn the circles I’m in, we don’t talk much about the Holy Spirit. And I remember being deeply impacted by Francis Chan’s “The Forgotten God” back in 2009 and thinking “Yes, why don’t we talk about the Holy Spirit?”.

J.D. Greear is an excellent preacher who I only started listening to this year – you can watch his sermons on YouTube. His preaching prompted me to read “Jesus, Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You.”

Which might sound like a crazy title, but these are the striking words of Jesus:

“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7

The Holy Spirit is a person – a person who comes to us. But what J.D. said (and I’m quoting from an interview, but he says similar things on page 13) resonated strongly with me:

“I knew the Holy Spirit was inside me, but I related to Him the same way I relate to my pituitary gland: I’m grateful it’s in there; I know it’s essential for something; I would never want to lose it . . . but I don’t interact with it. There was little, if any, sense of experiencing the presence of God as moving, dynamic Person.”

Does this sound like your experience? Read this book.

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit

youarewhatyouloveWhen you sin, is it due to ignorance (“I didn’t know this was displeasing to God”) or disobedience (“I knew, but did it anyway”)?

Head knowledge isn't our driving force – the heart is. But as James K.A. Smith observes:

“…we often approach discipleship as primarily a didactic endeavor—as if becoming a disciple of Jesus is largely an intellectual project, a matter of acquiring knowledge.”

He continues:

“Such an intellectualist model of the human person—one that reduces us to mere intellect—assumes that learning (and hence discipleship) is primarily a matter of depositing ideas and beliefs into mind-containers.”

We are more than just people who know things – we love things, and our loves compel us.

This helpful book is a reminder to be “attentive to and intentional about what you love.”

And so he asks this question:

“What if, instead of starting from the assumption that human beings are thinking things, we started from the conviction that human beings are first and foremost lovers? What if you are defined not by what you know but by what you desire? What if the center and seat of the human person is found not in the heady regions of the intellect but in the gut-level regions of the heart? How would that change our approach to discipleship and Christian formation?”

Does this resonate with you? Read this book on a different kind of discipleship.

Old Paths, New Power: Awakening Your Church through Prayer and the Ministry of the Word

oldpathsEvery Christian affirms the importance of prayer, but our lives can often tell a very different story (guilty).

And the same can be true in church life. The publicised beliefs of every Christian church include the vital importance of prayer, but do these core values trickle down to core practices?

In function, we can rely on programs more than prayer. Depending on our ideas and expertise, more than God’s power.

Daniel Henderson writes:

“In church life, prayer is not the only thing we do but must be the first thing we do. It can become the very environment of the ministry. It must be our first resolve not our last resort if our work is to be marked by the unmistakable power of the Holy Spirit. And this will take years, even decades. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.”

And there is this challenge to leaders:

“The prayer level of a church never rises any higher than the personal example and passion of the leaders. The quantity and quality of prayer in leadership meetings is the essential indicator of the amount of prayer that will eventually arise among the congregation.”

This is a compelling book about creating a “prayer culture.” If you’re a Christian leader (or are looking for a book to give to one), get a copy of this book.

The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected

iogI read this book (and watched the movie) when I returned from a trip with Open Doors visiting persecuted Christians in Iraq.

When my friend Mike gave it to me he warned me that I wouldn't know what to do with it. And he was right – the stories of God's faithfulness to His children in the midst of terrible persecution are difficult to process from the comforts of the West. They document a faith that in many ways seems so foreign to our discipleship in the West. And the question that this book constantly prompted was “Am I following the same God?!”

This book is roughly split into 2 sections. The first is a biographical journey of Nik and Ruth Ripken as they served God in some of the darkest corners of the earth. The second recounts the stories of persecuted Christians – stories that will humble you and cause you to ask many questions, including “Am I ashamed of Jesus?“.

“…our pilgrimage among house churches in persecution convinced us that God may actually want to use them to save us from the often debilitating, and sometimes spiritually-fatal, effects of our watered down, powerless western faith.”

On a related note, earlier this week I watched a moving interview with Helen Roseveare (who also died this week) and one thing she said really stood out to me:

In the midst of suffering we can ask 'Is it worth it?' or ask 'Is He worthy?'. Helen RoseveareClick To Tweet


The Pilgrim's Progress

There's a reason why this book is, outside of the Bible, the most read book in Christendom. Incredible read – and an absolute must-read book for every Christian.

“To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it. I will yet go forward.”

Organizing Love in Church

I forgot about this one! I wrote a review back in March – another very helpful book for those in church leadership.

What were your top reads of 2016?

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