Monday, December 29, 2014

Best Reads of 2014

1. Captive in Iran by Rostampour and Amirizamdeh: Mrs C and I saw the authors being interviewed at HTB and then took their book on holiday with us. Our copy is dog-eared and underlined and we discussed whole segments with each other as we sat in the sun. These women displayed such love for God and obedience to his ways as they suffered that it is truly astounding. Iran now has a special place in our prayer lives.

2. Proof: Finding freedom through the intoxicating joy of irresistible grace by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones: I discovered this book mid-year and it sat on my unread pile for a while. 'Proof' impacted me in all sorts of ways but it was the story about adoption (p.81-84) that Jones tells about his own family that moved me most deeply. I walked away from the pages of this book changed.

3. Prayer: Experiencing awe and intimacy with God by Timothy Keller: This is a very thorough work on prayer and ends up with Keller commending the BCP and the daily office which made me smile. The chapter on repentance is the one that really did me in and this is a book that will benefit from serial rereads down the years.

4. Fail by J R Briggs: I happened on J R Briggs through his blog which was a real blessing to me as I was planting our church. He has gone on to write a book about what happens when things go wrong in ministry and life and when they don't turn out like you planned. How do you cope personally and as a church when it all goes pear-shaped? No one is immune to failure and acknowledging this fact will help keep you humble- especially when you experience any measure of God's blessing on your ministry and life.

5. When love is not enough by Lois Wilson: My sister put me onto this read. If you are involved not just in church but in life you will soon enough come into contact with those who have battled addiction. AA is the most extraordinary movement and I have always wondered about its origins and history and this is a pretty good primer if you too are interested. It is told from the perspective of Wilson's wife Lois who describes so vividly the agony of living with an alcoholic.

6. Miracles by Eric Metaxas: Eric Metaxas takes on the subject of miracles and divides his book into two sections. The first is allotted to telling you what miracles are and making the case for their very real and tangible existence. The second half has about twenty case studies of miracles that Metaxas has personally researched and come into contact with and therefore he can attest to the authenticity of their sources. I can recall a few of these very vividly (especially one of a marriage being rescued and the other about Larry Crabb's son). This is a very good book to give away to others who perhaps are sceptical about the supernatural intervention of God in human circumstances.

7. Facing Leviathan by Mark Sayers:  I am always interested in books about leadership and this is a far from run of the mill one. It's starting point is failure and breakdown and unusually it doesn't try to offer neat solutions and take away principles and tips. Instead, Sayers uses story and history (a backdrop of Paris in the 19C) to work out what it means to lead and create in a culture that is not naturally disposed to God.

8. Shrink by Tim Suttle: Many of us who are involved in leading churches struggle to know if we are doing it right or doing it well. The primary measure used by many is whether or not the church is growing and this, suggests Shuttle, is not always the best indicator of health. As someone who spent years in the corporate world, I worry when I see churches that seem to be run like biscuit companies instead of communities of broken disciples. Of course there is much to be learnt from the marketplace but the great swathe of church history holds a much richer and more demanding treasure trove than simply setting a few SMART objectives. This was a helpful read for me.

9. The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis: This is a book written by my sister's partner and is aimed at teenage boys (which I was once). I read it on holiday and particular scenes have stuck with me since reading it. A twist and turn saga about a young lad evading his adversaries and coping with/processing a complex family history. Dark, vivid, quirky and interesting.

10. The Walk, Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus: I have been reading this book slowly with a new follower of Jesus in our church and we have been really blessed by it. If you are looking for a book to unpack the basics of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus with someone else then do check this out. Simple but deep and rich stuff which is accessible to all. Find someone to read it with in 2015.

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