Books are unbelievably important to our Christian walk. Some, like myself, have an intense passion for books. Others, have only a moderate interest in reading. And there are also those who simply do not like the thought of reading anything at all. However, good accurate books that proclaim and explain and exhort solid biblical truths are super important in strengthening our walk with the Lord.
A good God-centered book can be a spiritual revolution. They can have the power to turn a bad day into a good day, dull life into a vibrant life, and a mediocre faith into an unshakable faith.
God can use authors to arrange words in such a way to bring Him tremendous glory and to make Him look supremely attractive and great.
The writer of Proverbs rightly says,
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
So, I have compiled my top ten book recommendations of the books that I read in 2018.
If you are looking for a book to read in 2019 to strengthen your love and joy in Christ, any one of these books will do the trick!
This list is in no particular order. And while I do have an internal ranking system that places each in its proper spot of personal value, they were all my top 10 favorite reads of 2018.
Also, I will provide a reading difficulty rating on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being very easy to read and 10 being very difficult to read). This is based from the book's theological depth, need for critical thinking, vocabulary, structure, and the flow of the book. This scale is also geared with the typical reader in mind, not a studied scholar.
I will also provide the book's length, price of the book on Amazon, the book description, and the link to purchase the book.
So, lets get started!
1. Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper
Difficulty Rating: 4
Book Length: 128 pages
The most important questions anyone can ask are: Why was Jesus Christ crucified? Why did he suffer so much? What has this to do with me? Finally, who sent him to his death? The answer to the last question is that God did. Jesus was God's Son. The suffering was unsurpassed, but the whole message of the Bible leads to this answer.
The central issue of Jesus' death is not the cause, but the meaning. That is what this book is about. John Piper has gathered from the New Testament fifty reasons in answer to the most important question that each of us must face: What did God achieve for sinners like us in sending his Son to die?
Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die is a wonderful and insightful look into the supreme and gracious sacrifice that the Savior of the world made on the cross of Calvary. I feel sure that this book will cause you to view the death of Jesus Christ in a way that you never have before.
Containing fifty small chapters, this book can be read as a daily devotional, or you can simply read it all the way through. Either way, this book will not disappoint.
Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die is highly recommended for all readers.
2. The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel
Difficulty Rating: 5
Book Length: 336 pages
Is there credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God? Former atheist and Chicago Tribune journalist Lee Strobel says yes! In this revised and updated bestseller, The Case for Christ, Strobel cross-examines a dozen experts with doctorates from schools such as Cambridge, Princeton, and Brandeis, asking hard-hitting questions - and building a captivating case for Christ's divinity.
Strobel challenges them with questions like, How reliable is the New Testament? Does evidence for Jesus exist outside the Bible? Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event?
Winner of the Gold Medallion Book Award and twice nominated for the Christian Book of the Year Award, Strobel's tough, point-blank questions read like a captivating, fast-paced novel. But it's not fiction. It's a riveting quest for the truth about history’s most compelling figure.
The new edition includes scores of revisions and additions, including updated material on archaeological and manuscript discoveries, fresh recommendations for further study, and an interview with the author that tells dramatic stories about the book's impact, provides behind-the-scenes information, and responds to critiques of the book by skeptics.
As The Case for Christ and its ancillary resources approach 10 million copies in print, this updated edition will prove even more valuable to your spiritual journey.
The Case for Christ was truly one of the greatest books I have ever read.
As church saturated Christians, we often never investigate the view of a skeptical atheist. In this book, you get to enter into the mind of a skeptic as God draws him to Himself.
We often do not consider the astronomical evidences for the truth claims of Jesus Christ, but there is a plethora of solid intellectual reasons as to why Jesus really was who He said He was. We can confidently proclaim the truth of Christ's Gospel because of the overwhelming evidences of His existence, deity, and resurrection that Lee Strobel brings out in this book.
The Case for Christ is also an excellent book to give to a skeptical friend or family member.
3. Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
Difficulty Rating: 5
Book Length: 192 pages
“If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full.”
The American Dream beckons people to spend their lives on trivial diversions, slipping through life caught up with seeking success, comfort, and pleasure above all else. But God designed people for far more than this.
In this best-selling book, John Piper makes a passionate plea to the next generation to avoid the dangers of a wasted life, calling us to take risks and make sacrifices that matter for eternity―with a single, soul-satisfying passion for the glory of God that seeks to make much of him in every sphere of our lives.
Don't Waste Your Life is a life altering book that fully helps the reader understand 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 which says,
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."
From the moment we are born we are fed the lies of the unbiblical assertions of the American dream. "Do well in school, go to college, get a nice job, drive a fancy car, live in a luxurious home, marry a beautiful man/woman, have two or three children, retire, and live out the rest of your days basking in the sunshine that the beach has to offer," our society suggests.
But is that the plan that God has for His children?
What if we were created for something greater than the American dream? What if the American dream cheapens that glorious plan that God has for us?
John Piper does an excellent job describing and explaining why you are wasting our life if you are not spending it finding Jesus as your ultimate and supreme joy and giving Him glory.
I would suggest that every teenager who is contemplating what they wish to do with their life should read this book. There are also millions of dry Christians with a dusty spirituality that need to read Don't Waste Your Life.
4. Jesus Among Secular Gods: The Countercultural Claims of Christ by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale
Difficulty Rating: 8
Book Length: 256 pages
Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale defend the absolute claims of Christ against modern belief in the "secular gods" of atheism, scientism, relativism, and more. The rise of these secular gods presents the most serious challenge to the absolute claims of Christ since the founding of Christianity itself. The Christian worldview has not only been devalued and dismissed by modern culture, but its believers are openly ridiculed as irrelevant.
In JESUS AMONG SECULAR GODS, Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale challenge the popular "isms" of the day, skillfully pointing out the fallacies in their claims and presenting compelling evidence for revealed absolute truth as found in Jesus. This book is fresh, insightful, and important, and faces head on today''s most urgent challenges to Christian faith. It will help seekers to explore the claims of Christ and will provide Christians with the knowledge to articulate why they believe that Jesus stands tall above all other gods.
Jesus Among Secular Gods is a liberating book that gives the Christian confidence that Christianity can and should be taken seriously in academic circles. Christianity is not an irrational religion of false fairy tales and bogus stories. On the contrary, Christianity is a religion that has a mountain of evidence to support Jesus' truth claims.
Ravi Zacharias is an incredible apologist that has made it his life's goal to defend the Christian message. He, along with Vince Vitale, does a magnificent job of showing Christians why Christ's claims add up, and why secular gods' claims do not.
I did rate this book a level 8 on the difficulty rating because its subject matter is quite deep and its philosophy content is relatively thick. Ravi Zacharias is certainly a deep thinker, and it shows in this book. But this should not discourage you from reading this book. Just be advised that you may need to read it slower than normal, and you may need to take the time to think through the book's assertions.
5. The autobiography of George Muller by George Muller
Difficulty Rating: 9
Book Length: 15 hr, 47 min.
When he trusted in an extraordinary God, George Muller discovered endless possibilities and helped thousands of people throughout his lifetime. The Autobiography of George Muller is his inspiring journey, from his life of sin and rebellion to his eye-opening conversion to Christianity. Share his struggles and triumphs as he establishes orphan homes to care for thousands of children. Muller's unwavering dependence upon his heavenly Father will inspire listeners to confidently trust God in every area of life.
The Autobiography of George Muller was one of the most inspiring and convicting books I have ever read.
George Muller was a man that had an incredible faith and was quite seriously close to mere perfection. Building five orphan houses, housing thousands of orphaned children, and having over a million dollars come and go through his hands, George Muller never asked anyone for a penny (or a farthing) and relied on nothing or no one other than God.
If you would like a concise biography of George Muller, read Desiring God's article "He Fed Ten Thousand Orphans with Prayer."
I rated this book a level 9 on the difficulty rating for two reasons: It is written by a man who lived in England in the 19th century (thus, the language can be slightly foreign at times), and it consists mostly of journal entries - some readers may get bogged down at times in the book. However, this should not discourage you from reading this wonderful personal account of a very Godly and disciplined man.
I read this book via audiobook, so, the length, price, and purchase link is for the audiobook. If you would prefer to read it in a physical format, go to https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_25?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+autobiography+of+george+muller&sprefix=the+autobiography+of+Geor%2Cstripbooks%2C153&crid=21G32W5KSVJGU.
6. Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper
Difficulty Rating: 6
Book Length: 336 pages
Satisfaction…Happiness…Joy. According to John Piper, the pursuit of pleasure in God is not only permissible, it’s essential.
Desiring God is a paradigm-shattering work that dramatically alters common perspectives on relating to God. Piper reveals that there really is no need to choose between duty and delight in the Christian life. In fact, for the follower of Jesus, delight is the duty as Christ is most magnified in His people when they are most satisfied in Him.
Constantly drawing on Scripture to build his case, Piper shows why pursuing maximum joy is essential to glorifying God. He discusses the implications of this for conversion, worship, love, Scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions, and suffering.
Piper beckons us to approach God with the hedonist’s abandon. Finally, we are freed to enjoy Jesus—not only as our Lord and Savior, but also as our all-surpassing, soul-satisfying Treasure.
Desiring God may turn your Christian world upside down. And that will be a good thing, for the glory of God, and for your deepest joy.
Desiring God is a book that illustrates the reality that Christianity and faith in Christ is not merely a commitment to a lifetime of legalistic duty, but of a lifelong pursuit of pleasure in Christ that leads to delight in duty.
Life is about the pursuit of pleasure. That is okay if your pleasure is Jesus Christ.
Jesus did not want His followers to robotically and begrudgingly abide by religious commands. Instead, He sought for His disciples to find all of their happiness and joy in Him, which causes them to lovingly follow His religious commands.
The salvation experience is a revolutionary experience that makes the recipient fall head over heels in love with Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many go their entire lives sitting in Church pews and never know the joy of finding their joy in Christ and desiring God.
7. Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh
Difficulty Rating: 3
Book Length: 240 pages
Introverts have gifts for the church and the world. But many churches tend to be extroverted places where introverts are marginalized. Some Christians end up feeling like it's not as faithful to be an introvert. Adam McHugh shows how introverts can live and minister in ways consistent with their personalities. He explains how introverts and extroverts process information and approach relationships differently and how introverts can practice Christian spirituality in ways that fit who they are. With practical illustrations from church and parachurch contexts, McHugh offers ways for introverts to serve, lead, worship, and even evangelize effectively.
Introverts in the Church is essential reading for any introvert who has ever felt out of place, as well as for church leaders who want to make their churches more welcoming to introverts.
This expanded edition has been revised throughout and includes new research on the neuroscience of introversion and material for parenting and encouraging introverted youth. Discover God's call and empowerment to thrive as an introvert, for the sake of the church and kingdom.
Introverts in the Church was quite an encouragement to me because I am an introvert.
Understanding that it is okay to be an introvert and that there are ways to be just as effective in God's kingdom ministry as an introvert is essential for those who are introverted.
I must confess, when I saw the cover of the book, and when I first started reading the book, I was a bit worried that it was going to turn into a "I am who I am and everyone will have to deal with it" statement or an excuse for some to not participate in the commands that God gives in His Word because they are overly uncomfortable as an introvert. Even the book description seems to suggest that in some ways.
However, I am thoroughly glad that my mother-in-law recommended the book to me because that is not what Adam S. McHugh did in this book. Instead, he showed how introverts can make an impact in the Church and he gave practical ways that the introvert can be more effective in areas that make him/her uncomfortable.
Introverts in the Church is a good read for introverts and extroverts. I would also recommend this book to ministers who most certainly have introverts in their church.
8. I am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference by Thom S. Rainer
Difficulty Rating: 1
Book Length: 79 pages
Best-selling author and ministry leader Thom S. Rainer drew an exceptional response when he posted a 500-word declaration about church membership to his daily blog. "I Am a Church Member" started a conversation about the attitudes and responsibilities of church members -- rather than the functional and theological issues -- that previous new member primers all but ignored.
Thoughtfully expanded to book form, I Am a Church Member begins to remedy the outbreak of inactive or barely committed church members, addressing without apology what is expected of those who join a body of believers. When a person's attitude is consistently biblical and healthy, matters of giving, serving, and so forth will fall into place more naturally.
Six intentional chapters with study questions guide this rising discussion:
1. I Will Be a Unifying Church Member 2. I Will Not Let the Church Be About My Preferences and Desires 3. I Will Pray for My Church Leaders 4. I Will Lead My Family to Be Healthy Church Members 5. I Will Be a Functioning Member 6. I Will Treasure Church Membership as a Gift
Many think a Church member is someone who attends service and gives to the offering plate, but that is not the model that Jesus and the Apostles put forth.
In America, we have lulled into an attitude of entitlement in the church. As Rainer effectively says, men and women today falsely view church membership like a country club membership where they pay their dues and receive the amenities of the church.
A church member is someone who gives to the Church and seeks to serve rather than to be served.
I think that all Church members should read this short little book.
9. The Reformation 500 Years Later: 12 Things You Need to Know by Benjamin Wiker
Difficulty Rating: 10
Book Length: 320 pages
2017 is the 500th year anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing his Ninety-five Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, the event marking the beginning of the Reformation—and the end of unified Christianity. For Catholics, it was an unjustified rebellion by the heterodox. For Protestants, it was the release of true and purified Christianity from centuries-old enslavement to corruption, idolatry, and error.
So what is the truth about the Reformation? To mark the 500th anniversary, historian Benjamin Wiker gives us 12 Things You Need to Know About the Reformation, a straight-forward account of the world-changing event that rejects the common distortions of Catholic, Protestant, Marxist, Freudian, or secularist retellings.
You will notice that I put the difficulty rating at 10, and that is for a very purposeful reason. It is not because the book is difficult to read. In fact, the reading difficulty rating would probably be 5. However, I put the difficulty rating at 10 because I would only advise heavy critical thinkers to read this book. I will explain why.
The Reformation 500 Years Later is a great book to better understand the Reformation and the details of its impact. I enjoyed reading it and getting a Catholic's perspective of the Reformation; and this is why I gave it a level 10.
At Joy in the Father, we are Protestant, and therefore, we view the Reformation quite a bit differently than a Catholic would. A Protestant would view the Reformation as a glorious act of God-driven liberation from an oppressive and corrupt Catholic Church. A Catholic, on the other hand, would view the Reformation as an unfortunate act of rebellion.
Benjamin Wiker, being a Catholic, describes the Reformation as an era of history that was a politic-driven fracture of the Catholic Church. I would disagree. As a Protestant that has studied Church history, I view the Reformation as a beautiful exhibition of God's grace that brought the Church back to what it was always meant to be.
So, if I disagree with Wiker, why did The Reformation 500 Years Later make it onto my list? Well, it almost didn't. However, we can glean too much from the history that Mr. Wiker puts forth to simply cast it aside - if we are careful critical thinkers.
I enjoy politics. So, I enjoyed learning more about the political aspect of the Reformation. And yes, the Reformation was very political.
And though it is a dark side of the Reformation that Protestants tend to like to avoid, I also enjoyed learning of the tragedies of the murderous wars within the Reformation. It is also true that the secularization that we battle today, as Christians, also find their roots in the Reformation.
So, I do recommend this book to those who will carefully and critically read this book that will understand that it comes from a Catholic perspective - particularly ministers and preachers. If you will not read this book critically with a grain of salt, stay away.
10. A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness AND Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture by John Piper
Difficulty Rating: 7
Book Length: 304 pages
God has provided a way for all people, not just scholars, to know that the Bible is the Word of God. John Piper has devoted his life to showing us that the glory of God is the object of the soul’s happiness. Now, his burden in this book is to demonstrate that this same glory is the ground of the mind’s certainty.
God’s peculiar glory shines through his Word. The Spirit of God enlightens the eyes of our hearts. And in one self-authenticating sight, our minds are sure and our hearts are satisfied. Justified certainty and solid joy meet in the peculiar glory of God.
Difficulty Rating: 7
Book Length: 432 pages
God wrote a book, and its pages are full of his glory. But we cannot see his beauty on our own, with mere human eyes.
In Reading the Bible Supernaturally, John Piper aims to show us how God works through his written Word when we pursue the natural act of reading the Bible, so that we experience his sightgiving power―a power that extends beyond the words on the page.
Ultimately, Piper shows us that in the seemingly ordinary act of reading the Bible, something miraculous happens: we are given eyes to behold the glory of the living God.
I placed A Peculiar Glory and Reading the Bible Supernaturally together as number 10 on our list because they are two books that shout the same message with different content, and were meant to be read together. (You do not, however, have to read one to understand the other - they can be read in either order).
In the beginning of Reading the Bible Supernaturally, John Piper explains that when he sat down to write Reading the Bible Supernaturally, he quickly realized that he must first write A Peculiar Glory.
A Peculiar Glory seeks to address how God's peculiar glory resonates throughout the pages of Scripture. Piper explains that it is this peculiar glory that enables the uniformed member of a remote tribe in the jungle to come to Christ without having learned of all the specifics and details of the Bible and religion that not everyone is fortunate enough to learn. Salvation is not a blind faith in something that we hope works out; it is a passionate encounter that we receive when we experience the peculiar glory of Jesus Christ found in God's Word.
Reading the Bible Supernaturally seeks to address how inherently wicked and evil men and women can experience that peculiar glory of Jesus Christ. John Piper explains the liberation of learning what active reading is and how the words of the Bible bring life to our dead spirituality when we supernaturally comprehend and understand what we could not gather on our own.
I believe one of Satan's most effective lies that he uses to deceive mankind is to convince a man or woman that he/she does not like to read.
Why would Satan seek to convince a man or a woman that he/she does not enjoy reading?
I believe he would because books are so effective and so impressionable on the human mind and the human soul.
Yes, videos and music and movies and many other things are wonderful activities that make a huge impression upon the human soul. But Satan knows that if a sinner falls in love with reading about God, he has no chance.
So, pick up a book and read this year. I know that some of the books on this list are long and may seem daunting. I know that most of the books on this list are complex and will be challenging for the average reader. But I also know that reading books is just like everything else - the more you do it, the better you are at it.
If you spend all of your time reading easy books like Dr. Seuss, sure, you will be able to rhyme really well, but you will never stretch and strengthen your ability to think critically and deeply and better understand a holy God. (No disrespect on Dr. Seuss - I realize that there is some serious symbolism and allegory in his literature).
So, pick up a big thick book that you know you're going to struggle to understand and read it! Plow through it and take your time! Pray to God and ask Him to help you understand things that you are struggling to understand.
If you do, you may find future books that are big and thick and deep and philosophical easier to understand, and you may find that you have a wilder and greater experience of God than you ever had before.
Author: A.C. Minor
Scripture quotations are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.