Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Year End Book Review 2016

Years are going by so fast these days.  But with each passing year is another opportunity to tell you about the books that I read and whether or not you should read them.  I read some good ones this year that spanned different topics.  As always there is a link to the previous reviews at the bottom of this post if you are just getting into my book reviews.  Here we go!

Lead like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges.  I had never read any kind of leadership book so this was a nice change of pace.  One of my pastors recommended it to me since I am involved in small leadership positions in my local church.  I really enjoyed this book.  One of the authors is a business guy and brings a unique perspective to leadership.  The book is biblically based and thorough in describing different aspects of leadership using Jesus' mentorship of the disciples as the framework.  While often focusing more on business leaders, the authors do a fantastic job of applying the principles to your church life, family life, and personal life.  I learned some basic things about vision and core values which has already helped the LifeGroup I lead and the Global Medical Outreach I am involved with at our church.  If you are a leader in any capacity, this is definitely a must read because it is thoughtful, practical, applicable, and humorous at times.

Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes.  This was a book that the men in our LifeGroup decided to read together and I am glad we did.  If you are a dude and you love Jesus, this is a good book to open up.  Kent Hughes tackles all kinds of issues relating to leadership, holiness, work, evangelism, prayer, etc.  It's easy to read and incorporates many good analogies and funny anecdotes.  But that doesn't detract from the many challenging points of introspection and application that conveys.  This book also has good discussion questions at the end of each chapter if you decide to read it as a group to help sharpen each other.  Definitely a good book to read with lots of points to help examine your soul.

Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce by John Piper.  I read this because of a crazy Amazon kindle deal.  And, boy, was this a cool surprise.  I really really like this book.  If you don't know about William Wilberforce you should.  Eric Metaxas has written an extensive biography of him and there has even been a movie made about his life if you want to know more.  The book starts with a brief biography to familiarize yourself with him and his life.  William Wilberforce was a smart young politician in England and after becoming a follower of Christ dedicated his life to end the slave trade in England.  So after you get some biographical information, John Piper begins to answer the question of what made him tick.  The book explores from a gospel perspective and William's own writings from letters and his work Real Christianity how this good news impacted his life and how it enabled him to overcome so many challenges while pursuing biblical social justice in an age that was blinded by political interest.  This is a great read: informative, challenging, and motivating.  (I already downloaded his book Real Christianity on the Kindle and will read it next year.)

Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards.  This was a beast.  Not going to lie.  I've always wanted to read Jonathan Edwards because he is one of colonial America's greatest theologians.  So while, this book was good and thought provoking, it was also tough.  Edwards is a very meticulous writer and goes to great lengths to correctly outline his propositions and arguments so that they will not be misconstrued, which is good, but it also makes it challenging to read because you can easily get lost from the main idea that he is defending.  But I'm glad that I read it.  He explores the question, due to a rising heresy in colonial America and one that is very much applicable today, of how does one know that they are a believer?  What is it about a christian that marks him or her as a christian? How do you know if your affections toward Christ are stemming from Christ and his glorious mercy on your life or from something else.  Bottom line of the book is a welling up of joy and awe at the grandeur and mercy and grace of God enables a believer to live for Christ.  All else is fake.  Tough read, great answers, and applicable despite it being written over 200 years ago.

God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew.  This book is great.  Quite a contrast from the book mentioned.  I flew through this autobiography.  This book is about the life and ministry of Brother Andrew, a Dutch missionary after WWII.  It is his reflection on the early part of his life and ministry after coming to Christ and being one of the early pioneer missionaries that brought God's word behind the communist countries of the Soviet Union and China.  This book has stories of intrigue, suspense, faith, and God's incredible provision.  Brother Andrew has also written a sequel regarding more recent adventures into the middle east but I would start with this book to get to know him and his story.  Out of one man's conviction that people need the Bible, a ministry was started which is still in operation today.  It is called Open Doors and the they are still bringing Bibles and ministering to believers in some of the most difficult parts of the world today.  Fantastic book.  You will want to more fervently build God's Kingdom after reading this book.

Family Driven Faith by Voddie Bauchum.  Of all the great books and fascinating stories in this years reading list, this was the highlight of the year for me personally.  Voddie delivers a gut punch to your soul: a soul punch? But man, is it ever needed in today's Christian homes. Voddie centers the book around Deuteronomy 6 and each chapter in the book is pretty much an exposition of different parts of that passage.  The main point is that secular thinking is creeping into christian families and kids which is causing young people to leave the faith.  He argues that the remedy is holistic parental worldview training to impart to their young children the deep meaning and truths to our kids.  That way, they truly know the faith and can stand against the philosophical storms our children will face as they grow up.  He encourages men to lead in this process.  He challenges many of our natural, conventional attitudes towards kids, education, and family and demonstrates how they often are unbiblical.  Voddie is honest when he writes that he has received much flack from believers for this book and his arguments that are contained it in, but I think he is right.  We may just not want to hear it.  This book is powerful, convicting, extremely challenging, but encouraging and hopeful all at the same time.  It's a soul punch, but you and I need it.  #makeourfamiliesbiblicalagain. 

Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung.  I like Kevin DeYoung.  I like his books, his writing style, and his blog.  He is funny and concise and that is what you get in this short 10 chapter book.  This book is also a treasure in the midst of so many attacks on the validity and veracity of the Bible.  This book is about the Bible.  He argues that the Bible is sufficient.  That it is clear.  That is is authoritative.  And that it is necessary.  This is not an apologetic defense of the scriptures, although he provides several fantastic references at the back of the book if that is what you are looking for.  Rather, it is a book to encourage the believer.  Kevin reminds us of the beauty of God's word and that though the world would try to undermine it, God's word will last forever.  This book will definitely help you understand why we need the Bible and also help you treasure it a little bit more than you might currently.  A great, encouraging read!

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn.  This book rounds out the year.  This book has been sitting on my shelf for years and I finally got around to reading it and, although small, it packs a punch.  Centered on treasures and Jesus' teaching in Matthew, Randy Alcorn succinctly and vividly describes the reality that you can and should store treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed.  Everything in this world is passing away and we can't take it with us but what we can do is use and leverage everything for his Kingdom.  It echoes George Mueller's statement that we will never regret investing int he kingdom of God.  This book does not read with guilt ridden language but rather with the encouragement and hope that giving is truly an eternal investment that, for the Christ follower, you will one day see.  This book is also set up for group study with prayers and discussion questions at the end of each chapter.  Our LifeGroup is going start 2017 with this as our emphasis to continue to be focused on spreading the good news near and far.

That wraps up this years review!  Hope you found it helpful and inspires you to read.  What good books challenged you and helped you grow this year?  And as always, I've got some good reads lined up for 2017 from William Wilberforce, J.C. Ryle, and Al Mohler.  Have a happy New Year and open up a book! 

Get caught up by browsing other reviews from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Jason Baareman

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