January was a long dreary month here in Alabama, so it provided plenty of time to curl up with a good book and get a head start on my Goodreads Reading Challenge. Here are five amazing books that I’ve read so far this year, and why I think you should add them to your reading list for 2020.
Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin
Confession: I actually read this book at the end of 2019, but somehow it didn’t end up on any of my previous book recommendation blog posts! So while it technically was a 2019 read, it’s definitely a book I would recommend you pick up this year.
As our culture increasingly becomes secular, many of the Christian truths that we took for granted in cultural Christianity are being questioned. In her book, McLaughlin tackles twelve difficult questions that a secular unbeliever might ask. While the tone of this book is written toward an unbelieving audience, it’s useful for believers to have explanations when we’re asked questions such as:
- How can you say there’s only one true faith?
- How can you take the Bible literally?
- Isn’t Christianity homophobic?
While a believer might be persuaded by Scripture on these questions, McLaughlin takes a more research-based approach that speaks to our secular culture. Already this book has been so helpful in my interactions with unbelievers, helping me to understand their worldview and respond in a way that they can understand mine.
Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Story by Nancy Guthrie
So this was actually my first book of 2020, and what a way to start! Guthrie introduced me to a term that I had heard but not really understood in my Christian education—biblical theology. She traces nine central themes that span from Genesis to Revelation, “each serving to communicate a coherent message about the person and work of Christ.”
While I was captivated by each of her thematic retellings—including clothing, marriage, and Sabbath—one of my favorites was the theme of “dwelling place.” She writes, “the good news of the gospel is that God will be faithful to his commitment to come and dwell with us, his people, even though our desire to dwell with him often wavers or fades.”
She begins with God walking in the garden of Eden, traces it through the tabernacle and temple, then to the incarnation of Christ, God with us. But ultimately, like each of her chapters, the theme points to something even better Eden, an eternity with God in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
The Rest of God: Restoring your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan
I’m not very good at resting. If there’s an item left on the to-do list, I’m either doing it or thinking about doing it. I was excited to read this book, thinking that I would have another check list of how to better rest. That’s not what I got out of this book, thank goodness.
Buchanan doesn’t focus on the ins and outs of what counts as work and rest on the Sabbath. Instead, he focuses on the theology and heart behind the Sabbath. Before we can truly rest in God, we must have God’s understanding of work, time, and productivity. “Sabbath is both a day and an attitude to nurture such stillness. It is both time on a calendar and a disposition of the heart. It is a day we enter, but just as much a way we see.”
But don’t worry, if you are looking for some guidance on practicing Sabbath, he provides short “Sabbath Liturgy” at the end of each chapter to help you put into practice what you’re learning about the rest of God.
Hope when it Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help you Grasp God’s Purpose in your Suffering by Kristen Wetherell & Sarah Walton
I’m not much of a devotional reader, but I picked this one up shortly after we had our miscarriage in October. I’ve been slowly digesting the truths these two women have to share from their own personal experiences with suffering, reading it over that past few months. As I finished it up this week, I am so thankful for how they have guided my heart through my own grief and widened my perspective of hope and suffering.
Both of these women have experienced unimaginable hardship, but they confidently point us to the hope of the Gospel in their book. “The cross reminds us that although we cannot possibly make sense of all the ways of God, we can always find peace and reassurance in the detours of life because he has proved that in all his ways he is acting out of love.”
One of my favorite aspects of this devotional is a prompt section at the end of each day and a page to journal. I’ve dated each of my entries, and I look forward to revisiting this devotional again and seeing how God has grown me through suffering.
Victory over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ by Neil T. Anderson
This most recent read was recommended to me by multiple family members, and I’m so glad I listened! I grew up struggling with legalism (I still do sometimes), so messages about remembering who I am in Christ were always hard for me to swallow. I didn’t want to claim an identity that I knew I couldn’t live up to.
Anderson reminds us that believing our identity in Christ is actually the only way we can become more like Christ. “Because you are alive in Christ, every one of those characteristics is completely true of you, and you can do nothing to make it more true. You can, however, make these traits more meaningful and productive in your life by simply choosing to believe what God has said about you.”
This book helped me to realize the freedom that comes from our identity in Christ—the freedom to choose to follow him without having to prove our own worth. While some chapters weren’t as applicable for my current situation, Anderson addresses many spiritual strongholds that Christians can have when it comes to our identity in Christ.
There are so many books I want to read and not enough time, but I promise you that these five books are well worth your time.