As 2016 comes to a close, I wanted to highlight ten of the best books I read thoughout the year. While there were around 65 books I've read to this point (on pace for 67-70 for the year), I've added books that have been 1) enjoyable 2) helpful 3) impactful. Click on the link below the title of the book to purchase the book on Amazon for a friend this Christmas and help support this blog!
10. The Productivity Project
Chris Bailey did an excellent job of helping the reader understand what productivity is and how you can achieve it by taking practical measures. After reading this, I started charting my energy levels to determine when my "peak" producitivity hours were on any given day. My schedule/productivity hasn't been the same since (in a GREAT way)!
9. Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus
In typical Mark Dever fashion, this book is simple and incredibly helpful. He helps the reader understand what it means to make disciples and how you can go about doing it. My favorite part of the book was the end where Jonathan Leeman talks about what he has personally learned from Mark about discipling. Very helpful.
8. Knowing Christ
This book helped me love Jesus more.
7. Rejoicing In Christ
This book helped me enjoy Jesus more.
6. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism
Why share the gospel? How do you share the gospel? Mark Dever answers both of these questions well and encourages readers to sell out their lives to share the love of Jesus with neighbors, friends, and family.
5. The Forgotten Spurgeon
Ian Murray does an excellent job taking you "behind the scenes" in the life of the Prince of Preachers, C.H. Spurgeon. Learn about Spurgeon's struggles, personal development, and marriage all in this short book published by the Banner of Truth.
4. What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of MArriage
THIS IS THE BEST BOOK ON RELATIONSHIPS I'VE EVER READ. I hope me putting that statement in all caps stops some of you "non-marrieds" from just scrolling past this book because it's about marriage. Tripp offers practical advice to all people about how to have relationships with people in a real, authentic, Christ-exalting way. Please buy this book. You'll thank me later!
3. The Secret Of Contentment
Barcley breaks down the whole book of Philippians in this short and simple book on contentment. I learned more from this book about contentment than any other book I've ever read (besides the Bible of course)!
2. Supernatural Living for Natural People: The Life-Giving MEssage of Romans 8
Earlier this year I read through Romans 8 for one month during my morning devotions. This book warmed my soul by pointing me to the love of God for me in Christ. Buy this book and take a month to rest in Romans 8. You won't regret it.
This was EASILY the best book I read all year and EASILY makes the top three books I've read list. Ryle points the reader to living out "practical holiness" in everyday life and shows how holiness is the most beautiful thing in all the world.
"Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love" (Prov. 5:19) emphasizes two things: the quality of lovemaking ("fill... with delight" and "be intoxicated") and the quantity of lovemaking ("at all times" and "always"). The wisdom of God is saying, "When you get married, drop your inhibitions, and go for it." Back in the days of the Puritans, when a New England wife complained, first to her pastor and then to the whole congregation, that her husband was neglecting their sex life, the church removed him as a member. Why? Because the Bible is clear: "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another" (1 Cor. 7:4-5). And Proverbs 5 is wisely adding, "Make it fun and frequent!" The word translated "be intoxicated" is used elsewhere in the Old Testament for a man staggering down the street in drunkenness (Isa. 28:7). The point is for a man to be crazy in love with his wife. This counsel is not trivial. It is the serious wisdom of God, because, as we shall see later in the Bible, marriage points ultimately to the love of Christ and our joy in him. And the striking thing about this wisdom here in Proverbs, coming from ancient times as it does, is that marriages back then could be arranged for economic or political reasons. But the Bible sweeps all of that aside and calls husbands and wives to be head-over-heels in love with each other."
—Ray Ortlund Jr., Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel (page 67).
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With great sadness I must report that my dear sister in Christ, Julie Cain, passed from death to life after her long battle with cancer. In an article I posted April of 2015 I wrote, "God is able to use this trial to prove His faithfulness through Julie's life so that all might know the joy one can have in Christ. God is able to use the Cain family testimony to reach people who want nothing to do with God, but in seeing the joy in the Cain family, they are drawn by God's lovingkindness and are united with Christ in salvation. God is able to use this trial in Julie's life to do so much."
I stand behind these words today and can attest the faithfulness of God in using Julie's short life to put on full display His glory and grace. Julie had a joy about her that was so evident to all that knew her. Her faithfulness to love her Husband, children, family, and friends was apparent and visible. Her eagerness to know Christ and bring Him glory was seen in her faithfulness to His church and gospel witness to everyone she met.
Julie died physically today, but because of Christ, she has never been more alive.
While all of these things are true about Julie, we must understand that what made Julie's life exemplary was not found in her. Rather, what made Julie's life exemplary was and is Jesus Christ. It was Jesus Christ who sought her and bought her with His own blood (Gal. 3:13-15). It was Jesus Christ who was molding her into His own image, teaching her that she must decrease and He must increase (John 3:30). It was Jesus Christ who was teaching her, guiding her, and providing for her day by day as she sought to bring Him glory (Col. 1:17). It was Jesus Christ who was with her when she found out that she had the dreaded disease of cancer and it was Jesus Christ who comforted and ministered to her in the final moments of her life here on Earth (Ps. 23:4; Rom. 8:38-39).
And it is Jesus Christ that she will worship today, tomorrow, and forevermore. Unhindered by sin, she will sing His praises for all eternity because He is the Lamb that was slain and to Him belongs glory, honor, and power (Rev. 4:11). So dear friends of Julie Cain, do not be deceived. When Christ said "It is finished!" He ripped out death's fangs so that we might not feel the sting of death eternally when we place our faith in Him. Dear friends, don't miss the point here: Christ has eternally defeated death. And because He has defeated death, all those who place their faith in Him will too. Julie died physically today, but because of Christ, she has never been more alive.
I am a Husband to Clarissa, Lead Pastor Resident at College Park Church in Indianapolis, 'Tweeter' at @brad_merchant, and avid reader of books.