10 Recommended Books to Understand and Respond Faithfully to Expressive Individualism

In The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman writes, “Understanding the times is a precondition of responding appropriately to the times. And understanding the times requires a knowledge of the history that has led up to the present.”[1] Over the last few years, several helpful books have been written explaining the expressive individualism defining our culture today. This is not the culture of the world “out there.” All of us live and breathe in these waters and are more affected by it than we realize.

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Recommended Books from 2020

Books have always been a big part of my life. They encourage, challenge, teach, and grow our imagination. They clarify what we were feeling or thinking, and they stretch us to see the world in ways we never would have. Books are a blessing.

There were many books I’d like to recommend that I don’t have space to include, but here are ten books (in no particular order) I read in 2020 that I’d recommend to all believers.

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Wendell Berry and the Gift of Remembrance: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 26)

(This devotional is day twenty-six of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)

Read Psalm 105

“[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.”[1]

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.

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Resources on Thanksgiving and The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks

With the release of The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks, I’ve had the chance to write a few articles on thanksgiving and gratitude. For anyone interested, here are a few of those recent resources.

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Group Discussion Guide for The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks

If you picked up a copy of The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of A Lost Spiritual Discipline, there’s now a Discussion Guide available. Reading, discussing, and responding to books is always better when done with others than on your own.

You can download the Discussion Guide here.

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Gratitude & Thanksgiving Book, Grumbler’s Quiz, and Discussion Guide

My book, The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of a Lost Spiritual Discipline, releases today. It’s exciting to see the work become a reality, and I pray that God will use it to stir up gratitude in the hearts of his people.

Maybe you think you’re not really a grumbler, so a book on gratitude isn’t for you. Here’s a Grumbler’s Quiz (excerpted from the book) to help you know if it’s for you or not.

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Endorsements for The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks

I”m excited to announce the release of my new book, The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of a Lost Spiritual Discipline. My aim is to help the reader see how pervasive thanksgiving is in the Bible and how practical it is for the Christian life. It’s an everyday rhythm. On a daily basis, our heart gravitates toward either grumbling or gratitude. Each brings with it a host of friends. Grumbling invites pride, fear, anxiety, discontentment, and idolatry. Gratitude is accompanied by joy, worship, contentment, trust, and intimacy with God. Choose to give thanks rather than grumble.

As we give thanks, we not only enjoy God’s gifts to us and care for us, but we better know Him. Thanksgiving, then, is meant to lead us from gifts to the Giver. Even in trials, we practice “gritty gratitude” to trust God and thank Him for how He’s at work.

Below are three of the endorsements for the book.

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10 Quotes from Enough About Me by Jen Oshman

“Let’s admit that we are not enough, and turn to the God who is.” Jen Oshman

Quotes from a book are a bit like tasting samples at the ice-cream shop. They can draw you in and give a feel for what a full cone (or book) offers. But books are always more than a few quotes. Books include longer stories and illustrations to provide context to those quotes, and suggested applications to live them out. Books build and sustain arguments and ideas that can become part of how you live faithfully in the world, even if you never have a quote ready.

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Dwelling on The Good News in A Year of Bad News: An August Reading Plan

2020 has given us plenty of challenges: the pandemic, quarantine and isolation, church closures and re-openings, racial tensions, riots, debates over masks and pretty much everything else tied to COVID-19, politics in an election year, and questions about government intrusion on the Church. Mix in that trying to figure out what families should do for school, and how that affects our jobs and income, as well as churches scrambling to do their best to gather together and care for those struggling with all that’s going on, and there’s plenty to leave us discouraged.

One temptation is to immerse ourself in the news–on TV, online, or through social-media–to stay up to speed and feel informed. The intense debates only fuel this as so many people read articles to defend their cause. It’s no wonder people feel stressed, anxious, and angry. To make matters worse, some statistics indicate Christians are spending even less time in the Bible than they did before the pandemic. We’re filling our minds with bad news and stressful news, meanwhile we’re neglecting to fill our minds and hearts with The Good News.

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Resources on Wisdom and Discernment

“Much in cultural engagement hangs on wisdom and virtue rather than a list of rules or universal plan that we might extract from the Bible.” Joshua D. Chatraw & Karen Swallow Prior, Cultural Engagement

“Of all its benefits, one of the drawbacks of the digital age is how easily we mistake information for knowledge….The goal of discernment is not to simply avoid evil in this life, it is to learn what is good so that we might embrace and enjoy it.” Hannah Anderson, All That’s Good

We have more information than ever, and yet it seems we’re less discerning than ever. Maybe those two go hand-in-hand, as the amount of information and the mediums we receive that information from (primarily online and through social-media) don’t prioritize wisdom.

In an age of fake news, alternative opinions, echo chambers, tribalism, information overload, cancel culture, and hot takes, taking the time to diligently study issues, consider various views, compare it with biblical teaching, and reflect on the nuances and complexities of those issues before arriving at an opinion–and sharing it–seems to rarely happen. It’s much easier to simply read one article that says what I like (or even just read the headline) and quickly share it with everyone. It feels good. But does it cultivate discernment and diligence? Does it over-simply issues or honestly reflect nuance? Wisdom is in short supply, but let’s do what we can to try and reclaim it.

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