My 61 Books of 2018

My 61 Books of 2018

This was a great year of reading! Some of my new favorites were Deep Work, Strength to Love, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, and Her Gates Will Never be Shut. I’ve been rereading books I love more this year as well. I think that’s something I’ll continue to do more of as I realize some books have so much more to offer upon additional readthroughs.

Below is the list of 61 books I read with my rating for them (5 being the best) along with a brief review. Any book without a number rating has been given to me by the author or publisher. You can check out my running list throughout the year by clicking on the “reading list” link on the top right of my blog.


Her Gates Will Never be Shut

I’m continually amazed by how many people ask me about my views of hell. In much of Christianity today we discuss hell as if it is the single greatest reason for believing in Jesus. The challenge of this is that most of our views of hell are shaped more by fictional literature and movies and less by what the Scriptures actually say about it. This ends up creating a religion based on acquiring fire insurance rather than in experiencing Jesus.

I’ve read numerous books on hell that have challenged my thinking over the years but none as good as Brad Jersak’s book: Her Gates Will Never be Shut (see: Amazon link). Most Christians only know one view of hell, often referred to either as Eternal Conscious Torment or infernalism. Jersak does an incredible job showing the dominant three views that we find throughout the Bible and then offers a way to make sense of them. It should give Christians a renewed sense of humility when we realize there is no easy way to argue any one of them. Perhaps the best line of the book is when he says, “I am more hopeful of Jesus than I am sure of hell.”

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book to give you a taste of it:


How Was C.S. Lewis Influenced by Reading Books?

How Was C.S. Lewis Influenced by Reading Books?

I’m in the late stages of my Master’s program at Fuller Theological Seminary and I saved my elective courses for the end. This means I’ve fulfilled all of the required courses and can now take optional classes that are of particular interest to me. This semester has been the enjoyment of an entire class on the life and theology of C.S. Lewis. Lewis wrote numerous acclaimed books such as the Chronicles of Narnia series and his popular Mere Christianity book exploring theology.

I’ve had the chance to write a couple of papers that others may actually be interested in reading. I say “may” because these are academically styled and therefore not the way I normally would ever write. If seeing footnotes is a trigger for you of painful school memories then move along. However, if you are a fan of C.S. Lewis, you may be curious to know what I found as I explored the way he was shaped in his theology and thinking from the books he read. It was both encouraging and motivating for me in my own pursuit of learning through books today.

Click on the link below to read the paper. (And if you’re wondering, I got an A on it).

How Was C.S. Lewis Shaped by Reading Books?

The Cross and the Lynching Tree

I finally had the chance to read a book I’ve had on my list for years now. The Cross and the Lynching Tree is considered by many to be theologian James Cone’s finest book (see: Amazon link). The book rocked me. Cone looks at the nature of the cross in light of America’s history of lynching. As such, this should be mandatory reading for all Christians in America. As Cone notes, “Every time a white mob lynched a black person, they lynched Jesus. The lynching tree is the cross in America.”

I was amazed how it guided me through moments of tears into moments of desiring God to use me in new ways for the benefit of others. This is a theology that I don’t find in many places yet I realize the deficiency this has created in me. We need to listen to voices such as Cone’s, even when (and especially when) they are hard to hear. I was somewhat aware of the history of lynching, but I admit I had barely scratched the surface on seeing the horrors of it. I suspect most (white) readers will have the same experience.


2018 Reading List – 3/4

I’m sure the pumpkin spiced lattes alerted you that we are now entering Fall, and that means we are 75% through 2018 (not to mention that it’s almost time to bust out the Christmas music!). This year I’ve been posting my annual reading list as the year progresses (once per quarter). You can see my yearly list at any time by clicking on the upper right menu on my blog named “reading list.”

Here are the books I’ve read since January of 2018 with my rating for them (5 being the best) along with a brief review. Any book without a number rating has been given to me by the author or publisher. In addition to this list, you might also check out my reading lists from previous years as well as my recommendations on how to become a better reader.

(Click here) to see the books I have personally written, and see below for the ones I’ve read this year. Click on any of the titles below to get to a link to buy it.


Resident Aliens

I recently finished the book Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon (see: Amazon link). It was the 25th anniversary of the book, so I was unsure how it would stand up over the years. I was then surprised how encouraged and inspired I was as I read about the radical nature of what the church is to be in a culture. In case the title confuses you, here is where it comes from: “The church is a colony, an island of one culture in the middle of another. In baptism our citizenship is transferred from one dominion to another, and we become, in whatever culture we find ourselves, resident aliens.”

This is an important book for the American church today, as I believe our sense of nationalism is the greatest threat to our ability to live as the church. While many people express sadness at the way things are developing regarding the church and our culture, I (and the authors) see it differently. “The demise of the Constantinian world view, the gradual decline of the notion that the church needs some sort of surrounding ‘Christian’ culture to prop it up and mold its young, is not a death to lament. It is an opportunity to celebrate.”

With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite passages in the book: