Another year has come and gone, and with it, another round of book of the year lists have slowly but surely made their rounds around the blogosphere. Here at Servants of Grace, we review a lot of books. We review books Monday through Friday and sometimes on Saturdays. That means we reviewed over two hundred books this year on Servants of Grace. That’s a lot of books! We trust that you, our readers have found those book reviews not only helpful but thought provoking. In addition to this we offered quite a few author interviews, including some from our own contributors. Next year you can expect the same from us—great reviews on great books that people are talking about. Our goal as it pertains to book reviews is to keep you, our readers up to date on the latest and greatest in Christian books.
It is for this reason we offer the following list from the leadership of Servants of Grace: Craig Hurst, the book review editor of Servants of Grace, Mike Boling, the associate editor of Servants of Grace, and myself (Dave Jenkins).
Between Craig, Mike and myself, we are often asked for our recommendations whether at church or on social media. This list serves as our recommendations on the best books of the year. For as many books as we all read, you’ll see not much overlap. We all have our differing interests. We trust that this list will be helpful to you as you consider which books to get for either Christmas, for your book nerd friends, or for 2015 for perhaps yourself, your pastor, or one of your friends.
The follow list is in no particular order.
- We Cannot be Silent by Dr. Mohler. Here’s an excerpt of my review: “We Cannot Be Silent is biblical, thought-provoking, convicting, and challenging in all the right ways. As we’ve come to expect from Dr. Mohler in his podcast, The Briefing, in his articles, books, and speaking, he displays a high aptitude for speaking the truth in love and getting to the absolute core of an idea. This book is worldview thinking and analysis at it’s finest. This excellent book will help Christians to understand the why behind the worldviews of people opposing the biblical worldview. I highly recommend this book and believe this is a book that every Christian should read slowly in order to absorb what Dr. Mohler is saying as he points us to the truth of what the Bible teaches about gender roles and sexuality. This excellent book is faithful to the Scriptures and drenched in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I encourage you to pick up a copy of We Cannot Be Silent for in doing so you’ll become equipped and understand the underlying issues of the significant cultural shift that is occurring in our day and how to face the present challenge of believing, living, and engage the culture faithfully in the light of the gospel.”
2) The Colson Way by Dr. Owen Strachan. Here’s an excerpt of my review: “As Christian’s let’s go out into the harvest fields of our Lord. There is much work to be done. Let’s speak the truth in love as Colson did and as Owen instructs us to do in this book. I highly recommend The Colson Way. It is a thoughtful, engaging and helpful book that will help you to engage in the public square for the purpose of loving your God with all of your heart, mind, and strength, and your neighbor with the love of Jesus Christ.”
3) Unbelievable Gospel by Jonathan Dodson. Here’s an excerpt of my review: “The Unbelievable gospel is a book well-worth buying and reading. As Robert Coleman said in his endorsement of this book, “This is evangelism for the 21st century.” When I was involved in Campus Crusade in the early 2000’s I wish I had this book to hand out to every single person who came to our weekly meetings on campus. This book would have helped those people to understand how to engage our campus and the people in their classes with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even now I’m thankful for this book. This would be an excellent book for high school and college students to read to engage in evangelism. This would be a very good book for business minded Christians to read and use when they interact with people on a daily basis at their jobs. Whatever your job is this book will help Christians to navigate the difficult terrain that we live in the 21st century. Whether you share the gospel with great ease, or find it difficult, this book will help you to share the gospel with the lost. Furthermore, this book would be excellent to use in preparing Sunday school lessons on evangelism in your local church. Regardless of if you use this book in this way or in this way or in another way, I believe The Unbelievable gospel will be a blessing to readers young and old. I highly recommend this compelling and empowering book and pray the Lord will use it powerfully to advance His glory among the nations for His praise.”
4) The Happy Christian by Dr.David Murray. Here’s an excerpt of my review: “This book would be excellent for the new Christian on up to the most seasoned scholar of God’s Word. At every stage Dr. Murray explains helpful points the reader to the finished work of Christ. This book will help those struggling with depression, shame, guilt, and more to reorient their lives around the Word of God. As Christians we’re called to be Bereans. Dr. Murray takes readers into the Word and points to its author—God! As he does, he unfolds the Scriptural truths on happiness and life in Christ. I highly recommend this book and pray the Lord will powerfully use it in reader’s lives to change the way they think so that their lives will be transformed and renewed in and by Christ.”
5) The Things of the Earth by Joe Rigney. Here’s an excerpt of my review: “I highly recommend The Things of the Earth. Whether you’re like me and struggle to take time to enjoy life while filling your heart and mind with the things of God, or you aren’t, this book has something for you. This book is good for the person in the pew who works a 9-5 job on up to the scholar who spends his time filling his heart and mind with the Word of God. Wherever you are across the spiritual growth spectrum this book will help you find a balance between being so focused on heaven that you are of no earthly good. Likewise it will help those who are so focused on being of earthly good that you never spend time filling your heart and mind with the Word of God. This excellent book is a needed corrective and will help readers to be heavenly minded for the purpose of being of earthly good, and help those who are so focused on earthly circumstances and situations that they never take time to fill their heart and mind with heavenly things.”
6) What Does The Bible Teach About Homosexuality by Kevin DeYoung. Here’s an excerpt of my review: “I highly recommend What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? It is a book that every Christian must read to understand this issue. This book is a primer on God’s view of homosexuality from Scripture. This alone is no small feat as I’ve outlined in this review. Added to this, DeYoung responds to popular objections raised by Christians and non-Christians alike, making this an indispensable resource for thinking through one of the most pressing issues of our times. This book is well-researched, accessible, and saturated in the gospel. As J.D. Greear said in his endorsement, “This is now the book on this subject for our generation.” Dr. Moore is right, “Every Christian should read this book.” This book will help every Christian to answer the challenge of homosexuality in the church and outside the Church with the Word of God. I highly recommend this book and believe it is DeYoung’s best work to date.”
7) Becoming Worldly saints by Mike Wittmer. Here’s an excerpt of my review: “Whether you’re struggling in your Christian life or things seem to be going well in your Christian life—this is a book I highly recommend to every Christian. If you’re tired of calls for the “ordinary” and “radical” Christian living and want something more sustainable I recommend you read this book. We need to be told that the call of discipleship is radical for sure. We need also to be told about the “ordinary” ministry of daily life. Most of all, we need our vision filled with heaven. We need to regain a vision of God’s majesty. Such a vision will help us to focus our lives on Christ so that we can be His ambassadors and shine brightly for Him. This is what Dr. Wittmer’s book does. Reading this book will help you to fill your gaze with heaven with the end result that you’ll desire naturally to be His light in a dark world.”
8) Preaching Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller. Here’s an excerpt of my review: “Preaching by Dr. Tim Keller is an excellent and very helpful book on preaching. While this book doesn’t cover everything related to preaching what it does cover is excellent. This book majors on helping preachers focus on preaching the point of the passage as the point of the sermon and making a beeline to the cross. Sermons that don’t do that fail as Keller states because they are more talk than they are a proclamation of God’s Word. I highly recommend Preaching by Dr. Tim Keller and believe it will serve a rising generation of preachers, along with serving as an encouragement to seasoned practitioners of the seriousness and soberness of the task of preaching God’s Word to God’s people to the glory of the Risen Christ. I encourage you to go pick up Preaching by Dr. Tim Keller and be encouraged and equipped by a seasoned practitioner of preaching.”
9) John Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke. Here’s an excerpt of my review:”Finally, this is one of the best books in the Theologians on the Christian Life. Not only does this book examine the life and thought of Newton but Reinke masterfully blends his own thoughts– not to take away from Newton but to build upon Newton’s work. I highly recommend this gospel-drenched and biblically-saturated book. This book will help you to grow in your walk with God by pointing you to the all-sufficient Christ who so won over Newton’s life that he dedicated his life to proclaiming and living by the gospel all his days. This book will help you to grow in your knowledge and understanding of the gospel which is something every Christian needs. Please go and pick up this excellent book book on Newton on the Christian Life you won’t regret doing so and in the process of your reading you’ll be encouraged, challenged, and grow more in love with your Savior—Jesus Christ.”
10) Onward by Russell Moore. Here’s an excerpt of my review: “Onward is not a call for surrender, panic, or outrage. Jesus is alive. Onward will help Christians to understand the times we are in, to follow Jesus in them, and to press onward in the future. I highly recommend this book and believe every Christian will be helped by reading and reflecting on the truth in this book, and applying the message of it to their lives.”
From time to time, I have the opportunity to endorse this books. This year I endorsed two books one by Dr. Brian Cosby Uncensored and another by Mathew Sims.
Here’s my endorsement of Uncensored Daring To Embrace the Bible by Dr. Brian Cosby, “”In my own Christian life, I know how difficult it can be to ignore difficult passages in favor of the ones that are encouraging. This is why Dr. Brian Cosby wrote his excellent new book, Uncensored. I highly recommend this book and believe it will help you grow in your knowledge of, love for, and enjoyment of living by God’s Word.”
Here’s my endorsement of We Believe: Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms for Worship edited by Mathew Sims, “We are living in a day when many Christians would rather focus on their experience in the Christian life to the neglect of growth in their doctrinal and theological development. In We Believe readers will encounter biblical orthodoxy through the creeds, confessions, and catechisms…. I highly recommend this book and believe it will help every Christian.”
The follow list is in no particular order.
Why Trust the Bible?. Here’s an excerpt from Mike’s review, “I highly recommend Why Trust the Bible? for its readability, the important information shared in its pages, and most importantly for its gospel focus. Gilbert does an excellent job of providing the reader with the facts (and there are plenty) while staying focused on the ultimate quest – what will you do with this Word that declares God is God and Jesus came to save. In the middle of the debate over supposed transmission errors or any number of other questions constantly raised against Scripture, God’s Word can be proven to be true and since it is true, we can trust it implicitly, declaring the glorious message of the gospel it contains.”
The Biggest Story. Here’s an excerpt from Mike’s review, “DeYoung repeatedly drives home the important gospel message that God is working His divine plan to bring His people back to the Garden through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Jesus conquered sin, death, and the grave thus fulfilling the promise God made way back in Genesis to be the one that crushed the head of the snake. This is the biggest story that could ever be told. Such a story needs to be relayed to our children at the youngest age possible and continually into adulthood. To understand what God has been doing in history to bring about this gracious and merciful plan of redemption is of the utmost importance. Far too often children’s books, especially ones that interact with Scripture, fail to drive home this fundamental message of the gospel. DeYoung hits the mark with this book and I highly encourage parents with young children and congregations to purchase this book and to read it to your kids over and over. DeYoung gets both a gold star and an A+.”
Give Them Truth. Here’s an excerpt from Mike’s review, “If you are a parent who has been struggling with how to teach your children the truth of Scripture then this book is for you. If you are involved in children’s or youth ministry and understand there needs to be more to what you offer than funny videos and games, this book is for you. The time is now to get serious about training the next generation in the foundational truths of God’s Word. Meade’s book is a valuable tool for engaging our youth in a way that will have a lasting impact on their lives and I highly recommend it.”
The Scripture Cannot Be Broken. Here’s an excerpt from Mike’s review, “This is a book I highly recommend to be in the collection of all believers but especially as a resource for pastors and Bible College/Seminary students. Regardless of whether one is a scholar engaging liberal attempts to push against the foundation of biblical inerrancy or whether one is a layman who may run across someone who has questions about this issue, we have to understand and be able to elaborate why God’s Word is inerrant and what that means. The outstanding essays provided in this book will go a long way to informing and empowering the body of Christ to declare that God’s Word is indeed inerrant and how to cogently and powerfully defend the doctrine of inerrancy.”
Death in Second Century Christian Thought. Here’s an excerpt from Mike’s review, “This is truly a fascinating study into what I believe to be an overlooked and misunderstood element of Christian doctrine. Mutie provides the reader with a very scholarly look into the world of second century Christian thought on the subject of death and the development of thought on what happens when the believer dies. Reading this book might be a challenge, not necessarily because of the technical and scholarly nature of Mutie’s presentation, but perhaps due to the somewhat popular belief held today regarding the definition of the soul and the state of the righteous dead. Seeing the influence of Gnosticism, Greek, and to some degree Roman thought in the development of Christian dogma on this particular issue should serve to give some pause and to reexamine a more Hebraic biblical view of the doctrine of man and the promise of the future resurrection to include a more biblically centric understanding of terms such as body, soul, and spirit. I highly recommend Mutie’s work to any interesting in this subject matter. I know I will spend a great deal of time ruminating and processing this study as well as doing further research from the numerous footnotes provided and the excellent bibliography in order to continue to trace the flow of thought on death and the state of the righteous dead in order to discover what the extent of what is currently being taught is influenced by Gnostic and Greek philosophical nuances.”
What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality. Here’s an excerpt from Mike’s review, “In a world where so much confusion exists on the issue of homosexuality and what Scripture has to say on this topic, DeYoung’s book could not have come at a better time. He adroitly deals with this important topic with grace, purposefulness, and lucidness. Furthermore, this is one of the most biblically rooted books I have read in quite some time on this subject matter. For those who have any question as to what Scripture has to say on homosexuality, I recommend you read this book. I echo the endorsement of Russell Moore in that every Christian should take the time to read this book. It will be informative, it will drive you to the pages of Scripture, and it will greatly assist you in developing a sound biblical apologetic on this issue.”
Exploring Our Hebraic Heritage. Here’s an excerpt from Mike’s review, “I highly recommend this book to all believers. Wilson does an excellent job of explaining his thesis and the importance of our Hebraic heritage and a Hebraic theological understanding. Full of theological insight, excellent references to both Jewish and Christian scholars, and most importantly, biblically based, this book is a valuable resource for those desiring to better understand, study, and apply Scripture.”
- Look & Live by Matt Papa. Here’s an excerpt from Craig’s review, “Papa gets glory and you need to get this book. Papa’s writing is engaging, honest, poetical, musical, biblically sound, and on target. He is well read in Scripture and wide array of Christianities best thinkers like Jonathan Edwards and C.S. Lewis. This book will easily make my top ten books for the year!”
- Finding Truth by Nancy Pearcey. Here’s an excerpt from Craig’s review, “This is one of those books that I wish I could out into the hands of every Christian. Additionally, this is the perfect kind of book to go through with an atheist or secularist friend who wants to know more about Christianity and is open to critique of their own worldview. Nancy wants everyone to see that knowledge of God provides a universal framework” for seeing, understanding, and living all of life to its fullest. (270).”
- Urban Legends of the NT by David Croteau. Here’s an excerpt from Craig’s review, “Urban Legends of the New Testament is a prime example of why learning the basics of Bible interpretation (hermeneutics) is so important. Whether or not you have fallen for all of the urban legends Croteau lays to rest, you will walk away with an appreciation for the hard work of good Bible interpretation many Christians give their lives to and why responsible Christians should have discerning minds when it comes to interpreting the Bible. I highly recommend this book for all Christians as a model for how to read the Bible responsibly.”
- God Made All of Me by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb. Here’s an excerpt from Craig’s review, “God Made All of Me is a book that ALL parents with young children need to have and use. This book will equip parents to equip their young children with valuable, and life saving knowledge, that they need to properly understand their bodies and how to protect them. At younger and younger ages, children are being exposed to porn and sexual abuse. Children need to know how to avoid these situations for themselves and others. This book will help parents have the hard conversations that need to be had in every family. Sex is a good gift from God. Children need a God-centered understanding of those parts of their bodies that need to be protected and hidden from others now, so they can properly share them with their spouse one day.”
- Mapping Apologetics by Brian Morley. Here’s an excerpt from Craig’s review, “Further, any good book like this leaves the reader itching for more. Morley does not have, nor would he says he has had, the last word on what he has addressed. Maybe others in a similar position will be inspired to write in a similar vein. More can be said and I hope he returns pen to paper to explore more issues within the various methods. Morley is a person I would want to learn more from even where I might disagree with him.”
- A History of Western Philosophy & Theology by John Frame. Here’s an excerpt from Craig’s review, “A History of Philosophy and Theology is a great achievement in historical philosophy and theology and critique from a master philosopher and theologian himself. Frame continues to provide the church with solid books that will have a shelf life for generations to come.”