2020 Reading Challenge: January

Book 1: A book recommended by someone else

41Wt8UmH6tL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_The Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

“Holiness is as much about the kind of neighbor you are as it is about the kind of church member you are. Holiness is as much about who you are when you are holding a steering wheel as it is about who you are when you are holding a Bible.”

The Every Day Church is a book written to apply the letter of 1 Peter to our modern times. It works through the text applying the framework of the Bible into the post-evangelical times we live in. This is a highly readable book which any Christian can absorb. Be careful on this one. You will be convicted and challenged. It is thought provoking in that it challenges the way we do church to move the church from the once treasured majority to the persecuted minority. In this they lay out a plan of how we can be gospel people in our new reality. 

Book 2: A biography

51EQb-dUmrLPlaying Hurt by John Saunders

“Depression allows you to have incredible insights into other people’s souls yet still be incapable of transferring those insights to your own situation. That’s true of everyone to some degree, of course, but I’ve often been struck that such serious problems can seem so easy to solve, so clear when they’re not mine– and so stubborn and opaque when they are.”

Playing Hurt is John Saunders’s story of walking through depression across the course of his life. The story begins by laying out the traumatic upbringing Saunders walked through and showing how the psychological wounds would affect the rest of his life. The book chronicles every step of the author’s life with breathtaking honesty. As a public figure who has struggled with depression on and off, this book was captivating. I found myself connecting with Saunders’s story and resonating with the application found in its pages. 

Book 3: A Christian Novel

41sA79QaswLNo One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

“In one fell swoop, they washed their hands of all culpability. They acquired amnesia, as though the past never happened. Meanwhile, their willful blindness ensured the problems would continue into perpetuity.”

No One Ever Asked is a Christian novel that tells the story of a failed and impoverished minority school district whose students were transferred into the highly successful and affluent mostly anglo school. The story is told from the viewpoints of the parents and their experiences through a 21st century perspective of integration. Ganshert expertly exposes the emotions of both sets of parents allowing the conflict of the book to serve as an educator in our time. Much is misunderstood about systematic racism in our day and time, but I believe that Ganshert’s book is an excellent place to start in understanding a side of an issue that we might not be able to see on our own. 

Book 4:A Book About History

51KBlyqxdIL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_The Parchman Ordeal: 1965 Natchez Civil Rights Injustice By G Mark LaFrancis

“It would be inconceivable that they could inflict pain and torment on the bodies of black men without imagining that violence as a religious act, laden with Christian symbolism and significance.”

The Parchman Ordeal was a sobering and eye opening read. The book details the experiences and lives of African American residents of Natchez from the 1800s forward. The book details the abuse and dehumanization they were subjected to not only in being sold but also in the way they were treated throughout their civil rights journey. Its story flows to a moment in history when the black residents of Natchez were thrown in prison for a simple demonstration. In the book, LaFrancis gives voice to the survivors magnifying their encounter of humiliation. The Parchman Ordeal is an essential book in understanding who we were and in understanding the tensions which still sit below the surface of our city. 

Book 5: A Book Targeted at Your Gender

41gulUgjOJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Kingdom Man by Tony Evans *audiobook

“A kingdom man may be defined as a man who positions himself and operates according to the comprehensive rule of God over every area of his life. And every area of life should feel the impact of a kingdom man’s presence.”

Tony Evans speaks straightforward truth in Kingdom Man, challenging men to own up to true masculinity. For Evans, true masculinity is ruling under the rule of God. It is leading his household through living out the model and example of manhood as defined by scripture. I loved this audiobook. Tony Evans read his own book, and you can hear so much more when the author reads their book. Evans has the gift of communication where he makes words come alive in his work. Communication aside, Evans skillfully builds a researched and biblical case why families and our society need men to regain their places of leadership… but only under the authority and rule of God. 

Book 6: A Book About Christian Living

510RsauO7jLAnxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World by Max Lucado

“The secret to fruit bearing and anxiety-free living is less about doing and more about abiding.”

I like books that challenge me. I love books where I can see the author screaming at me from the other side, yelling “get it together, Wes!” This was not one of those books. Lucado books are like back rubs for a tired soul. From the beginning I was intrigued by the title, “Finding Calm in a Chaotic World.” I was ready for Lucado to speak truth to Christians  who needed to get off their panic driven lives. That was not this book. Lucado spoke words of peace and life to my heart in this book. The main idea is that we so focus on the chaos that we cease to abide in God. The solution is easy – abide. I was challenged to return to Christ and abide in him. 

Book 7: A Book with at least 300 pages (458)

51Slthi2c3LThe Emperor’s Revenge by Clive Cussler

I may have cheated with this book. My nightly reading is Cussler’s series of the Oregon Files books. Shameless plug, these books are clean fiction which follow Juan Cabrillo as he captains a modern warship disguised as a rust bucket. They are formulaic from one book to the next, but each story captivates me as I read. 



Book 8: A book about theology (Biblical Theology)

God’s Big Picture41uKVmMafdL by Vaughan Roberts

“All the promises of the kingdom of God are fulfilled in Christ; he is God’s people. God’s place, and God’s rule.”

Icredible book! If you are looking for a single book to teach you the big picture of the Bible, this is it! Roberts takes a general overview of the Bible and teaches how each part of the Bible fits into the story as a whole. Roberts’s book was simple, straight forward, and readable. For the “theology” book, God’s Big Picture was a page turner. I finished it in one day. Wow! Great book. 

Book 9: A book from a “best of 2019” list. (Christianity Today’s 2019 Book Awards)

51ymy8fh2FL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Preaching as Reminding by Jeffrey Arthurs

This book did not captivate me. I always enjoy good preaching books. The challenge to refine my craft is essential in teaching and leading my church. That said, this book was a dud for me. It hit the main points that many preaching books do, but Arthurs’s discussion of the science of the brain left me bored. I will admit, I worked to understand the first half of the book but read disinterestedly the second half. 


Book 10: A book more than 150 years old. 

51bnp38X19L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

“A man may cry out against sin in principle, but he cannot abhor it except by virtue of a godly aversion against it. I have heard many cry out against sin in the pulpit but who still live with it without any problem in their heart, house, and everyday life.” 

Pilgrim’s Progress has always been one of those books I have heard quoted, recommended, and said “one day I will read it.” What a treasure this book is! Bunyan tells the story of “Christian” the lead character as he comes to faith and follows the narrow way into eternity. It is written allegorically so that you can see the Christian walk explained through the story of the main character. My biggest takeaway with the book is the understanding that the Christian walk has not changed since the book was written. The same temptations, distractions, and conditions of the world in Bunyan’s time are present today. This would be a great book to sit and read as a family one chapter every night. 

Book 11: A book on the ECPA bestseller list.

412YKiPfs9L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_To Hell with the Hustle by Jefferson Bethke

“And here’s where I’ve had to grapple with this the most: When thinking about our Christian culture and its obsession with doing “big” things for God. What if God doesn’t want me to do big things for Him? Like, at all? What if He just wants me to talk to Him and know Him and live an ordinary life where I love Him and my neighbors well?”

When given the assignment of reading an ECPA bestseller I will admit that I struggled to find a book. Between Joel Osteen, Sarah Young, and Joyce Meyer monopolizing the list I struggled to find a book worth reading. Sadly the best sellers in Christian books reveal the poor state of American Christianity. I had never heard of Bethke, and truthfully I do not know much about him outside of this book. With that disclaimer in place, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Bethke systematically takes apart the culture we live in from social media, to busyness, to fame. This well researched and readable book is for anyone tired of what we have come to expect from life. 

Book 12: A Biography for Children or Teens

51nC28TDSGLHudson Taylor: Deep in the Heart of China by Janet and Geoff Benge 

“Yet, he had trusted God, and God had used him. Now, fifty-four years later, over eighteen thousand Chinese Christians had been baptized, and the China Inland Mission had eight hundred twenty five missionaries.”

I LOVE the then and now biographies for kids (and adults). They are readable accounts of major figures in Chrisian history. One of the downfalls of many biographies is the overwhelming amount of detail given. Yes, there is room for books like those, but many readers (myself included) get bored or lost in telephone book accounts of history. Short kid/preteen biographies such as Benge’s offer the high points of the figure’s story. Hudson Taylor was not the first missionary to China, but he launched a missions movement to the interior of China. This is a remarkable story of a man whose love of the Chinese people and of God led him to accomplish what only God could. 

Book 13: A book of your choice

41-7-y2MIpL._SX350_BO1,204,203,200_Gather God’s People: Understand, Plan, and Lead Worship in Your Local Church by Brian Croft and Jason Adkins

“Preach the Bible, read the Bible, pray the Bible, sing the Bible, and see the Bible. Describing Christian worship in this way allows God’s authoritative and inspired word to shape the form and content of worship. In the following sections, we provide a biblical description of these elements, articulate the benefits of these elements, and give some suggestions on the format of these elements.”

I am a huge fan of any book Brian Croft writes. He is leading front in church revitalization through both study, publishing, and practice. Croft produces small one day reads which cover the gambit of church practice to equip ministers in the local church. I picked up this book as our Pastor of Worship stepped to a new church as a senior pastor. In beginning to lead our church through the search process, I wanted to read up on music in the church. Croft and Adkins come from a very different tradition of worship than I have experienced in the south. That said, Croft’s book challenged me to think through each element of our corporate worship and ask how fits in to a scripture centered service. 

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