Every year there are a couple of Christian books published that fall into the “must buy” category. Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers is one of those books. We mature by marveling at Jesus (Col. 1:28). That means a good book must partially be judged by how much it compels us with the glory and goodness of Jesus. That’s what Ortlund’s book is all about. While it certainly unpacks the person and work of Christ, what’s unique is it’s angle of showing us the heart of Christ. How does he view and treat us as sinners and sufferers? We all want that question answered. If we’re bold enough to say it, we even wonder how he feels about us.
You can now purchase a copy of my new book Finding Satisfaction in Christ: A Devotional Study of Colossians in paperback or kindle formats. I wrote this over the course of a few years. What began as a small group study on Colossians in the home of our friends Dan and Emily later turned into a Group Discussion Guide for College Park Church that blossomed into a full-length book slowly written off-and-on over the course of a few years. As any writer or teacher struggles with, I hope my personal joy and benefit of studying Colossians leads to your joy and encouragement as you read through Colossians with me. Here’s a bit about the book.
Below is a list I’ve compiled of Bible verses that might be encouraging during this season, as well as some additional resources. I’d like to add other good resources, so let me know in the comments if you’ve found other helpful things.
Here are a few of the books I’m reading right now. Some of these are books I’m reading for myself and others are being read slowly in groups. What are you reading?
“I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” Jane Austen
“Reading is a gift, but only if the words are taken into the soul—eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight.” Eugene Peterson
I love books. Give me a good library or an hour at your used book store and I’m a happy man. There are a lot of things that make a book good, let alone enjoyable, so my list is admittedly subjective. But to add to the chorus of top books read in 2019, here’s my top-ten list. My criteria was reading them in 2019, not publication date, though most were printed in 2019. In no particular order…
“[Tol Proudfoot] had become an elder of the community, and had recognized his memories, the good ones anyhow, as gifts, to himself and to the rest of us.”
Maybe it’s my small-town upbringing, but I feel at home when reading Wendell Berry’s fictional stories. His characters aren’t larger-than-life heroes or villains but they capture the ordinary, beautiful, flesh-and-blood people I’ve encountered in life. His plots aren’t moved along by intense action, but in their familiarity as true to life stories you might hear at your own family gathering.
I’ve loved the last few books by James K.A. Smith (You Are What You Love, How (Not) to be Secular, and his trio of cultural liturgy books). He combines church history, movies, music, philosophy, theology, cultural references, apologetics, and the Christian life in a way that connects the disconnected. He pushes you to think and feel. In On the Road with Augustine, Smith uses Augustine’s writings (particularly The Confessions) and life to help us navigate 21st century life.
Both Augustine and Smith prove to be trustworthy travel partners. Together, they help us think through our longings and desires in a realm of issues (freedom, ambition, sex, friendship, mothers, fathers, friendship, enlightenment, justice, story, and death). It’s an apologetic offering rest to the restless in the same source Augustine found rest: Jesus. While some of Smith’s best material is too lengthy to put here, I’ve provide a few of my favorite quotes from the book.
One thing making personal and public conversations difficult, inside and outside the church, is we live in a day and age where our understanding of an issue is weak but our passion is strong. This creates over-confidence in our opinions—when we should continue listening and learning—and animosity toward those we disagree with. A lack of committed study and critical thinking is undercutting healthy conversations. We need to recommit ourselves to not only listening, but also to learning. We need to be diligent about better understanding matters we express opinions on.
I recently read and recommended How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman , not only for what it says but how it says it. The book focuses on faith and politics, though in the conversations many other significant hot-button issues get brought up. The book not only helps us root our thinking about politics in the Bible (the what of the book), but I recommend the book because it also teaches us how to engage tough topics as Christians. With 2020 promising to be a heated and divisive year in our country, this book will be a timely read.