I love to read. And while there were a bunch of great books that passed through my hands this year, here’s my top 10 with a short excerpt from each one!
“I’ve been asking myself these painful questions. If I am bored with ordinary people in ordinary places, then am I not bored with what God delights in?If I think that local limits of body and place are too small a thing for a person as gifted as I am, then don’t I want to escape what God himself gladly and daily inhabits?If I stare at a face, a flower, a child, or a congregation and say, “But God, not this. I want to do something great for you!” Am I not profoundly misunderstanding what God says a great thing is?”
“In the Christian community thankfulness is just what is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things…How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankful receive from him the little things? A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.”
“We believe our chief contribution to society is putting on attractive worship services. It’s not. We can be successful in attracting people to these gatherings yet not make much of a dent in their hearts or improve their effectiveness as Christians. The primary benefit we offer our communities is creative, selfless, tenacious service…We are now entering an era I call the “Great Exchange” in which those of us in the West become the students and global pastors are our teachers.”
4. The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognise and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues (Patrick Lencioni)
“Humble, Hungry, Smart: The ideal team players possess adequate measures of humility, hunger, and people smarts. They have little ego when it comes to needing attention or credit for their contributions, and they are comfortable sharing their accolades or even occasionally missing out on them. Ideal team players work with a sense of energy, passion, and personal responsibility, taking on whatever they possibly can for the good of the team. Finally, they say and do the right things to help teammates feel appreciated, understood, and included, even when difficult situations arise that require tough love.”
5. Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilience (Mark Sayers)
“The danger for Christian second cultures communicating the gospel to pre-Christian cultures is that they may inadvertently colonize them. The danger when Christian second cultures communicate the gospel to post-Christian third cultures is that they themselves may be colonized—for the third culture is just as evangelistic as the second culture. With its great mission to prohibit anyone from prohibiting, it seeks to propagate its dogma that there should be no dogma.
…To be shaped by grace in a culture of self, the most countercultural act one can commit in the third culture is to break its only taboo: to commit self-disobedience. To acknowledge that authority does not lie with us, that we ultimately have no autonomy. To admit that we are broken, that we are rebellious against God and His rule. To admit that Christ is ruler. To abandon our rule and to collapse into His arms of grace. To dig deep roots into His love.”
“As one of God’s children, you received a new wardrobe, and condemnation was not included because it no longer fits. Conviction is entirely different…Conviction is God’s reminder that he has something better for you.What is the way our from under condemnation? How you can be sure that you are under conviction instead, which leads to growth in your life with God? Meditate on the cross of Jesus. Go to that most condemned place and person in history and see your sin being judged. Your sin was not swept under the rug. It was not treated lightly. It was not ignored. Your sin was nailed to the cross of Jesus (Colossians 2:14). It is at the cross that we see how much God hates sin. It is there that we see the depth of his love that drove him to die in order to be with us forever.”
“On those occasions when I tend to gravitate to one side to the exclusion of the other, I remind myself that the man who wrote Romans 9 also said, “I thank God I speak in tongues more than you all” (1 Cor 14:18).
“As he mounted a field pulpit, thousands of people left the players’ booths to hear Whitefield’s performance. The angry entertainers followed them, not to listen, but to accost the itinerant. Soon a hail of “stones, dirt, rotten eggs, and pieces of dead cats” pelted the preacher. A clown climbed upon a man’s shoulders and tried to slash Whitefield with a whip. Every time he swung at Whitefield, however, the clown tumbled down instead of hitting his target. Another clown climbed a tree close to Whitefield’s pulpit and “shamefully exposed his nakedness before all the people,” eliciting a chorus of hoots and laughter. Every attempt to silence Whitefield failed, and he went on preaching, praying, and singing for three hours.”
“I asked whether, when and how the oppressed could truly threaten a totalitarian oppressor. They offered this scenario in response: The security police regularly harass a believer who owns the property where a house-church meets. The police say, “You have got to stop these meetings! If you do not stop these meetings, we will confiscate your house, and we will throw you out into the street.” Then the property owner will probably respond, “Do you want my house? Do you want my farm? Well, if you do, then you need to talk to Jesus because I gave this property to Him.” The security police will not know what to make of that answer. So they will say, “We don’t have any way to get to Jesus, but we can certainly get to you! When we take your property, you and your family will have nowhere to live!” And the house-church believers will declare, “Then we will be free to trust God for shelter as well as for our daily bread.” “If you keep this up, we will beat you!” the persecutors will tell them. “Then we will be free to trust Jesus for healing,” the believers will respond. “And then we will put you in prison!” the police will threaten. By now, the believers’ response is almost predictable: “Then we will be free to preach the good news of Jesus to the captives, to set them free. We will be free to plant churches in prison.” “If you try to do that, we will kill you!” the frustrated authorities will vow. And, with utter consistency, the house-church believers will reply, “Then we will be free to go to heaven and be with Jesus forever.”
“Measure not God’s love and favour by your feelings. The sun shines as clearly in the darkest day as it does in the brightest. The difference is not in the sun, but in some clouds which hinder the manifestation of the light thereof.” (Richard Sibbes)