BOOK READING RECOMMENDATIONS
I really enjoy reading, and I typically read two books at a time. Reading expands my knowledge, assists me in growing spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually, and provides “an escape” from “what is going on out there.” So here are 8 books I have read recently and would personally recommend.
1. Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortland. I wanted to digest the truths of this book, so I read it slowly - one chapter per night. Ortland takes the title from Matthew 11:28-30, and he reminds us that “gently and lowly in heart” is the only specific Bible reference to the very heart of JESUS. He leads us to see JESUS’ compassionate heart for sinners and sufferers. Using Scripture and quoting the Puritans, these 20 Biblical texts paint a profound portrait of the very heart of JESUS.
2. Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy by David O. Stewart. This book provides the story behind the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson by the US House of Representatives and his subsequent trial in the US Senate. The trial reflected the bitter division in the US. Johnson escaped conviction by one vote. Several Republicans who voted against impeachment were bribed to vote “no.” An interesting side note. Johnson was the only Vice-President in history who was drunk when he was sworn into office.
3. Deep Discipleship by J T English. It is enjoyable to read a book by someone you personally know! J T is currently lead pastor at Storyline Church in Denver. He merges doctrine and practice in calling for a renewal of churches to make whole disciples of JESUS. He emphasizes making disciples as the purpose of the church, and he calls for the re-discovery of the local church building as a vital part of achieving that purpose. He answers questions such as “Where Does Discipleship Happen in the Church?,” “What Do Disciples Need?,” “How Do Disciples Grow?,” Where Do Disciples Go?”
4. 1984 by George Orwell. This book ranks 2nd on the “Top 100 Literary Novels of All Time” by Goodread. I do not typically read books of fiction. But I am glad I read this one, even though the story is dark - “startling and haunting.” The fictional character, Winston Smith, lives in a very rigid totalitarian society called Oceania. Humans are “de-humanized.” Everybody lives for the benefit of “the Party.” Smith “toes the Party line,” but he hates “the Party.” He is discovered by the Thought Police and physically and emotionally tortured. This book created such terms as “Big Brother,” “Thought Police,” and “Doublethink.” The current emphasis in America of “Cancel Culture,” the re-writing of history, the shaming of people who do not embrace a certain political perspective, and the pressure from the elite of culture to “toe the Party line” raise ominous concerns for the future.
5. Tempered Resilience: How Leaders Are Formed in the Crucible of Change by Tod Bolsinger. The author is one of the most noted Christian leaders of our era. In this book, he uses his personal experience with blacksmithing to compare it to leading in adaptive change. Bolsinger writes, “To ‘temper’ describes the process of heating, holding, hammering, cooling, and reheating that adds stress to raw iron until it becomes a glistening knife or chisel tip.” In leading adaptive change, the crucible of “the fire” refines the leader and enables him/her to become more flexible and stronger - a much for effective leader.
6. Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos. One of the best books written about the Korean War. I read this book quite some time ago, but I want to include it. In a nation divided by segregation, Lt. Tom Hudner (Anglo-American) and Ensign Jessie Brown (African-American) team up in Fighter Squadron 32 to fight the communists in the Korean War. The battle at the Chosin Reservoir is riveting. When the US Marines were cornered, Tom and Jesse flew, guns blazing, attempting to protect and save these trapped Marines. When one of the duo is shot down behind enemy lines, the other embarks on one of history’s most audacious one-man rescue missions. This book was inspiring, riveting, and action-packed.
7. Leading Small Groups That Thrive by Ryan Hartwig, Courtney Davis, and Jason Sniff. I must admit I’ve read quite a few books on Small Groups that were less than inspiring and helpful. Then I read this book! It was a great read - and very helpful! The authors take a step-by-step approach on how to plan for, launch, build, sustain and multiply highly effective, transformational healthy small groups. They share insight both from large-scale research studies of small groups as well as practical information gained from successful small groups. I agree with Larry Osborne: “Small group ministries are the great conundrum in most American churches. Everybody says they’re vital, but few have figured out how to make them actually work. This book will be a great help to the church at large.”
8. The Stuff of Earth by Heidi Balaraman. I typically do not read books of fiction. But I will when it is written and published by a member of Redemption Hill. I enjoyed this book of short stories. Reading a different genre helps stimulate one’s imagination and kick’s one’s creative thinking into gear. This book certainly accomplishes both! Chapter One is titled “The Stuff of Earth,” and provides an ending I wasn’t quite expecting. One of my favorite stories was “Meme and the Baby.” Another favorite chapter contains the story of a homeless man. Fiction is “literature in the form of prose, especially short stories and novels, that describes imaginary events and people.” This book certainly meets this definition of fiction. I really enjoyed reading it!