1. Iscariot by Tosca Lee – I am starting my recommendations list with a fiction title that was a startling read from beginning to end. It was on the “must read” list of several of my friends and I recently got an advance copy. Tosca Lee is known for her exploration of maligned characters, strong prose and solid research. She has previously co-written with Tedd Dekker and this made me a little suspicious of the content and how graphic it might be. While she certainly does portray the gritty side of life at the time of Christ, she does an amazing job of sticking to the story of Judas as she envisioned it. I had never spent much time thinking about the context of the times in which Judas was raised and the extent of Roman oppression that he and the Jews lived under at that time. Her description of his baptism and meeting Jesus is worth the price of the book alone. The ending is a surprising, but believable interpretation of what may have led Judas to betray Jesus that will keep me pondering for a long time to come.
2. Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic – After seeing Nick on Oprah’s Master Class show recently where he was featured along with Rick Warren, I knew that I would want to read this book. Having recommended his last book in the fall, I can’t wait to spend some time being blown away again by a person who should not be so joyful. By any definition, without arms and legs, he could be very bitter and withdrawn. Instead, he is one of the most outgoing, popular and motivating people in the world. His ability to accept the circumstances he has been dealt and still love and praise God is simply amazing. As Oprah said, “His story will shut you up”. I am particularly glad that he has used his massive worldwide platform to give glory to the God who made Him and loves him. What an incredible testimony.
3. God on Fire by Fred Hartley – this is a CLC book and I am the publisher so I need to start with that disclaimer. That said, this is one of the most impactful books that I have ever been involved with in my time with CLC and that includes a lot of books and authors. Fred is a lead pastor in Atlanta and President of the College of Prayer International. This book unpacks the concept of experiencing God for real – his tangible presence, not just a head knowledge that he is everywhere. It’s premise is that so many Christians and churches today understand God in the big sense (his omniscience) but have never actually encountered him the way that Moses did in the burning bush or the disciples did at the day of Pentecost. This is not a book of extremist Charismatic motivational principles, but a book that challenged me to my very core. Do I really long for the tangible presence of God and am I ready for what can happen when God makes Himself real in this way? This is a book that should be read by anyone who is interested in revival either personally or in the life of the church.
4. Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones is the new book by the best selling children’s author of the Jesus Story Book Bible. It is illustrated again by the amazing artist Jago and is a wonderful to read to a with your young kids. It is a gorgeous and innovative collection of 101 simple-yet- profound thoughts on faith. Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing shares profound spiritual truths from the Bible told in a conversational tone—drawing insights from creation, history, science, the writings of great thinkers and preachers and writers, and more—to turn the reader’s eyes toward the God who loves them with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.
5. Follow Me by David Platt is his follow up to the best selling Radical that so deeply affected me and others all over the world. In this new book, Platt, contends that multitudes of people around the world culturally think they are Christians yet biblically are not followers of Christ. He deals head on with the question, “What did Jesus really mean when he said, “Follow Me”? I just got my copy of this book and am almost afraid to open it as I know that it will be very convicting just like his first one. Somehow, though, I know I need to read it as my heart is so often drawn to the things of this world and biblical truth is the only antidote.
6. Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson is a book written for moms, but should probably be read by dads as well. I love the subtitle – Hope for Mom’s Who Need to Breathe (though it should say parents). It is endorsed by Ann Voskamp and described as for those who love their children to the depths of their souls but who have also curled up under their covers, fighting back tears, and begging God for help. It’s for those who have ever wondered what happened to all their ideals for what having children would be like. For those who have ever felt like all the “experts” have clearly never had a child like theirs. For those who have prayed for a mentor. For those who ever felt lost and alone in motherhood. I need this book and I am not a mom – though I might share it with one who is.
7. RELAUNCH by Mark Rutland is a very interesting book that I have just finished reading. Mark is considered a turn around expert in evangelical circles and has been responsible for bringing new vitality to a megachurch and two colleges. His most recent claim to fame is taking the helm at ORU (Oral Roberts University) after Oral Roberts’ son Richard Roberts resigned from the presidency of ORU on November 23, 2007 after being named as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging improper use of university funds for political and personal purposes, and improper use of university resources. The principles in this book are very similar to the ones first presented by Jim Collins in his seminal book, Good to Great. The difference, however, is how he applied many of them to a not-for-profit Christian context. I highly recommend this to any Christian leader facing challenging circumstances in their organization.
8. Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp came out last fall, but I am including in this list as I am just getting around to reading it and I think it is a very important book for all pastors. Paul Tripp is a world renowned speaker, author and conference presenter who has written a lot on parenting and marriage. His global platform has enabled him to interact with many pastors over the years and this books is written for them. He has discovered a serious problem within pastoral culture. He is not only concerned about the spiritual life of the pastor, but also with the very community of people that trains him, calls him, relates to him, and restores him if necessary. Dangerous Calling reveals the truth that the culture surrounding our pastors is spiritually unhealthy—an environment that actively undermines the wellbeing and efficacy of our church leaders and thus the entire church body. It is a book that both diagnoses and offers cures for issues that impact every member and church leader, and gives solid strategies for fighting the all-important war that rages in our churches today.
9. God’s at War by Kyle Idleman is my second follow up book that I am recommending in this list. Kyle’s first book, Not a Fan, challenged readers to take a hard look at why they were following Jesus. In this new book, Idleman helps every believer recognize there are false gods at war within each of us, and they battle for the place of glory and control in our lives. What keeps us from truly following Jesus is that our hearts are pursuing something or someone else. While these pursuits may not be the ‘graven images’ of old, they are in fact modern day idols. Behind the sin we’re struggling with, the discouragement we’re dealing with, the lack of purpose we’re living with is a false god that is winning the war for our hearts. Idleman is the Teaching Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, the fourth largest church in America.
10. Dirty God by Johnnie Moore. Moore is an author, pastor, advisor, professor of religion, and a vice president of Liberty University. He is young and Dirty God is sure to establish him as an emerging voice for Millennial and Gen-X evangelicals for years to come. In this book, he draws on both Scripture and his extensive experience with other cultures and religions to show how the God of the Bible is unique in his willingness to be near us in all of our messiness. Moore outlines the central importance of the doctrine of grace while introducing readers to a humble and human Jesus who reaches out to us at our worst and pulls us up to our best.