My 57 Books of 2014

The last two years I somehow read the exact same number of books each year: 63. That’s a strange number but I wasn’t able to quite live up to it this year. My favorite books were A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd (#33) and Culture Making by Andy Crouch (#48).

Here are all the books I’ve read since January of 2014 with my rating for them (5 being the best) and a brief review. You can see this list at any time by clicking on the link at the top of each page on my blog titled “reading list.” Any book without a number rating has been given to me by the author or publisher. You can also check out my lists from previous years, as well as my recommendations on how to become a better reader.

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Top Posts of 2014

Top Posts of 2014

The end of the year always affords me perspective on my blogging efforts. Again, I want to extend a hearty thanks to you for reading and sharing my posts like you have. While posting on a regular basis certainly adds an element of stress to everything else I’m trying to do, the reality is that it is such a blessing to work out ideas on here before they end up in print or in a sermon. Your feedback is immensely valuable to me and helps me to grow.

Here are my top 5 posts from this year (based on traffic) in case you missed any of them or wanted to revisit them for fun:

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The Difference Between the Manger and the Cross

The Difference Between the Manger and the Cross

“Though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!” Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

As I reflect on another Christmas I realize how much faster the season goes as you get older. As a kid the days are eternity. You find different methods to keep your sanity while you slowly count down the days one by one. You rip paper rings or cross off boxes on a grid. As an adult, you stare at a daunting checklist of actions all to be done before you are even remotely prepared for Christmas. Nobody wants to be the guy who finally gets his lights and tree up on Christmas Eve to enjoy them for all of a handful of hours.

Regardless of how much time we get each year to slow down and enjoy what Christmas is about, we each have our core traditions and celebrations. Part of that for me is a reminder of the concept the prophet Isaiah first introduced us to of Immanuel, or God with us. That’s the shocking, unexpected story we reflect on each year. God came to us. And even though He didn’t look as we might imagine, this little baby cleared up all our misconceptions and questions about what God is really like. As the author of Hebrews tells us, “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.” Hebrews 1:3 (NLT). Jesus had God-radiation oozing off of Him. You couldn’t see Him or come in contact with Him without experiencing the Divine. Everything else must now be measured by Him. What an incredible human life!

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The King Who Asked

I had the opportunity to preach on one of my favorite stories this weekend. As a result, it was a bit longer than normal!

We learn from king Hezekiah (and many others) that we should allow pain and prophets to push us to prayer.

Work that Matters

I invite you to join me in a short journey of recent memories.

Experience #1

Sitting together one evening, my dad and I “swapped stories” of emails we had received about certain things we’d each mentioned while preaching. While neither of the emails we mentioned were sent with any type of ill-will, we reflected on the challenge of our jobs when you give your opinion and perspective to thousands of people who have their own opinions and perspectives. Most people don’t realize it also means you find yourself explaining your arguments to others in email after the fact.

Experience #2

I had the opportunity to preach at a friend’s church last weekend. I talked about Jesus’ statement that He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21). One lady came up to me afterward and told me that she recites Psalm 23 every morning (the one that talks about “The Lord is my shepherd…”) and how I had forever changed her time with God each day. Another woman talked with me afterward and told me that as she listened to an illustration I used (about a negative view of God), she mentioned to her daughter that she found that to be an absurd stereotype. Her daughter replied by telling her mom that the illustration perfectly captured her view of God. Her mom was stunned and extremely grateful to me for the chance to have that dialogue with her daughter.

Conclusion

If I only think about experience #1 I can easily idealize some other career path. I know I’m not alone in this. Think back to the last time you felt totally drained and discouraged doing something you feel passionate about. If I only think about experience #2 I can easily expect a dream job which I’ll never quite get to last. Again, I’m sure you’ve had to work through something like this in your own life. But when I, and you the reader, combine both of these types of experiences we find a balanced way of sustaining ourselves to do work that matters. It won’t be all roses, and the moments of tension (especially if they come at you in a rush) can feel overwhelming at times. But this is the entrance fee for doing something of value. It also keeps us from having our heads in the clouds and constantly chasing after some dream which cannot be sustained. How many people opt out of meaningful efforts because the challenge with it was too much or because the adrenaline rush didn’t last?

You can spend today on work that matters. Find what it really looks like and willing give yourself to it and to the challenges it brings.

The King Who Had it All

Real wisdom is following the instructions, not knowing them.