Category: Books

My Favorite Books of 2022

This is, perhaps, the deepest and most satisfying book I read all year. Wiman, an award-winning poet, weaves reflections on life, suffering, meaning, and faith through his own brush with death, suffering through bone cancer. As an adult convert, he grapples with skepticism in a profoundly authentic way, delivering insights like:

“To admit that there may be some psychological need informing your return to faith does not preclude or diminish the spiritual im-perative, any more than acknowledging the chemical aspects of sexual attraction lessens the mystery of enduring human love.”

His poetic prose and deep insight drew me back to previously read pages, just to soak in their insights. My church heard quite a few quotes from Wiman this year!

This novel was a slog in McCarthy’s diatribes on mathematical and scientific theories. Apparently, he’s been living with a community of mathematicians in recent years. But everything else is golden. He’s at his best describing nature, reaching down into the soul to awaken wonder over Texas oil fields and rural dwellings.

But the storyline is intriguing. A salvage diver is implicated in the mystery of a missing passenger from submerged wreckage of a plane crash. But Bobby has even deeper internal problems. He’s plagued with guilt over his genius sister’s suicide, which surfaces over and over again as a prism through which to peer into the meaninglessness or meaning of life.

The title sounds pretentious, I know, but it’s really about engaging in a spiritually rich, personally virtuous, intellectually vibrant vocation. I’ve read the preface two times, which is worth the price of the book. It’s packed with aphoristic insight like, “At the bottom of the fear of God is the fear of self.” And, “Great men aren’t more ambitious; they are more obedient, and listen to the Sovereign voice.”

This Catholic intellectual writes as a priest and moral philosopher, but with a practical orientation. He wants to help his readers take practical steps in living a full, meaningful, reasonable, and vocationally rich life.

I’ve read four or five of Crouch’s books. I loved Black Matter, Recursion not so much, but Upgrade is great. It’s about a gene cop who investigates illegal gene editing and ends up getting delivered a gene package that enhances his intelligence, speed, strength (think Jason Bourne), which helps him solve the crime.

As an avid U2 fan, I was skeptical about this book. A cash grab? Hardly. I have the hard copy and the audiobook. The latter is truly unique, interspersed with new renditions of old songs, great sound effects, and Bono’s Irish accent. I was struck by Bono’s self-awareness, whether it’s his ego or the way his family and sufferings have shaped his career. After learning about his father’s love for opera and the arts, as a blue collar Dub, I struck up a conversation with my own father, to thank him for spontaneously playing the piano in our home, and frequently blasting our adolescent years with classical music.

The subtitle is a stretch but its a great take on the dwelling place of God. Volf & McAnnally-Linz trace the biblical theme from Genesis to Revelation, while engaging with our broken and aspirational concepts of home as a society. The theological and sociological reflection is grounded in Scripture, and Volf offers some great turns of phrases like new creation being a “planetary enactment of the gospel.” It charged my imagination while preaching through Revelation.

I’m trying to read everything Kierkegaard has written. It’s a slow but rewarding process. This volume contains the famous, “The Purity of Heart to Will One Thing,” which inspires the reader shave down excess and focus your life on devotion to God. However, it’s his reflection s on prayer that have truly stirred me lately: “A man does not become wise by reading many books but through prayer.” Why is prayer instrumental in obtaining wisdom? Because it’s before the face of God that we uncover insights about ourselves and him, that we rarely uncover any place else. Prayer insight also sticks better.

Here are my remaining top books for the year:



What to Do with News Fatigue


Impeachment hearings. Mother allegedly kills her three children. U.S. drinking water filled with “forever chemicals.” Coronavirus in China. Unsanctioned bombings by Iran. It seems like a new crisis hits the headlines everyday.

This is why I wrote Our Good Crisis.

Overwhelmed, I needed to find a way to cope with the calamity. Turns out many of us feel the same way. In 2018, 70% of Americans reported feeling news fatigue. When we’re worn down, it’s easy to cave into despair and check out, or click into outrage. Perhaps even worse, go numb.

How do we navigate what feels like constant crisis? Is it possible to make some good of it all? I believe there is. I want to do my small part to help. We’re giving away the first chapter, well ahead of the book release (March 17).

I hope it brings you hope and gives you light.

Elder Development & Holiday Reading

This Fall we started the fourth round of Elder Development at City Life Church in our 12 years as a church. We deliberately cast the net wider than those who are ready for eldership so that we can also develop leaders. This Fall was the richest round we’ve had to date. I think this was because of the high level of transparency and commitment to repentance and faith in Jesus.

Those who participate commit to meeting early on Friday mornings, taking City Seminary classes, writing papers, getting real with their fight clubs, and meeting with an elder mentor. In the Fall we focused on developing character and shepherding skill. In the Spring, we’ll focus on theological maturity and missional leadership. Here is a link to our foundational documents for the entire process

While all of the training is spiritually formative, we’ve asked our participants to read one of the following books and write a reflection paper over the holidays. I’ve found the practice of reading spiritually formative books over the holidays a great way to stay engaged with the Spirit while on vacation. I’ll be re-reading Dynamics of Spiritual Life, among others.


5 Books on the Holy Spirit

When writing a book, a constellation of influences converge to produce what we put on paper. Those influences range from personal experience to the knowledge of others. As I have matured in my understanding and enjoyment of the least understood person of the Trinity, I have been helped by quite a few people. Most notably the two men to whom I dedicate Here in Spirit: professors Richard Lovelace and Colin Gunton.

I took several classes with Lovelace in seminary including, Dynamics of Spiritual Life (if you haven’t read this buy it now). Lovelace opened up my understanding of Reformed Christianity as a renewal movement that includes a whole way of living in the world, in the Spirit, in every nook and cranny of life, to the glory of God. Gunton helped me ground Lovelaces theological and historical insights with a robust understanding of the Trinity’s work in creation. Gunton is much more academic. A good entry point for him is The Triune Creator. You can read a paper I wrote in seminary on Gunton’s theology of creation here. I am forever indebted to both of these men and hope this book is something they would be proud of.

If you want to read other books on the Spirit, here are five not so academic books I can recommend:

  • The Holy Spirit in Mission – Gary Tyra is a scholar at an Assemblies of God university and his work emphasizes the Spirit’s prophetic work through the church, in speech and action, for the mission of God.
  • The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament  – In this brief book Chris Wright, who runs the legacy ministry of John Stott and is an OT scholar, does a great job explaining who the Spirit is in the Old Testament and how that relates to our New Testament experience.
  • The Spirit-filled Church – This book by a veteran church and organizational leader and contains a lot of wisdom for Spirit-filled living. The chapters on leadership and prayer are excellent.
  • Practicing the Power – A balanced book on the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. You may not agree with everything but will find it challenging and helpful.
  • The Holy Spirit – A solid introduction to a theology of the Spirit by a renown Reformed theologian.