Ten Books for 2020

Ten Books for 2020

Every December, Reformed blogger Tim Challies posts his “Reading Challenge,” offering a creative approach to setting reading goals for the new year. The “2020 Reading Challenge” is now online and provides alternatives for readers ranging in voraciousness from “Light” to “Obsessed.”

While I don’t plan to follow Challies’ reading program this year, I thought I’d share 10 books I’ve selected to read in 2020 and give reasons for each choice. I hope to read more books than these in the coming year (in addition to commentaries and other technical reading for sermon preparation), but these are the books I’ve resolved, by the grace of God, to put at the top of my reading list for 2020. Perhaps you’ll join me in reading one (or a few!) of them. If so, I’d love to discuss what we’ve been reading together.

My Ten Books for 2020 

1. Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed. This is a Puritan devotional classic available from Banner of Truth here. Richard Baxter attributed his own conversion to God’s use of this book. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said The Bruised Reed was of particular help to him when he wrestled with the temptation to ministerial burnout. This book has been of great encouragement to many people I know, and is on the “must read” list of many ministers I deeply respect. This is one Mae and I plan to read together this year.

2. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. While this book was required reading in the seminary I attended, I believe it’s so good that it’s worth coming back to again and again. If you want to understand what Christ has done for us in history as our Redeemer, and how all He’s done becomes ours experientially through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, this is the book to read. Especially helpful is Murray’s treatment of the precious doctrine of union with Christ.

3. L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus. Dr. Morales was one of my professors in seminary. He is (in my opinion) one of the most brilliant and godly scholars in the Reformed academy. This book is the fruit of Dr. Morales’ study of the Pentateuch, which is the heart of the Old Testament. Leviticus is the heart of the Pentateuch. I’ve been eager to read this book since seminary, but now that I’m preaching through Genesis, it seems the right time to dive in.

4. Sinclair B. Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life. This is another volume published by Banner of Truth. It’s on the reading list for a pastoral theology class I’ll be taking in January with my friend and trusted mentor, Ian Hamilton. John Owen is perhaps best known for his book, The Mortification of Sin, which is one of the most life-transforming books I’ve ever read. He also wrote, Communion with God. As if this wasn’t enough reason to read the book, it’s written by one of the greatest experiential Calvinist preachers alive today, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson.

5. Scott M Manetsch, Calvin’s Company of Pastors. This is another required text for the class I’m taking in January. I’ve already started reading this one, and it’s a fascinating treatment of the period during which, and immediately following, Calvin’s ministry in Geneva. The value of the book is that it paints a vivid picture of what ministry was like in 16th and early 17th century Geneva. It also emphasizes the true Presbyterian character of the church that Calvin sought to reform. Calvin, though a spiritual giant, was by no means the only pastor-scholar shaping the life and church culture of the city that will always remain so closely associated with his name.

6. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures. Depression is a serious threat to the healthy Christian life. How do we respond when our souls are cast down within us (Ps. 42)? How do we sort out biological and physiological sources of depression from spiritual causes? And since man is a body-soul unity, can they ever really be separated completely? Lloyd-Jones was a medical doctor who became a pastor. While not rejecting the possibility of medical help for physiological causes of depression, Dr. Jones also emphasizes the abject  helplessness of a medical establishment that refuses to acknowledge the existence of the soul. My main hope in reading this is to be a better and more caring spiritual physician of the souls entrusted into my pastoral care.

7. Danny E. Olinger, Geerhardus Vos: Reformed Biblical Theologian, Confessional Presbyterian. It would be hard to overestimate the influence of Geerhardus Vos on both pulpit and pew in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). Benjamin Warfield called him “probably the best exegete Princeton ever had.” He is sometimes called “the father of modern Reformed biblical theology.” Vos’ approach to Scripture is sometimes called the “redemptive-historical method.” This book is a biography written by the General Secretary of the OPC’s Committee on Christian Education. I’m actually about two-thirds of the way through the book, and so far, I’ve found it extremely helpful in understanding Vos’ approach to biblical interpretation and preaching.

8. Joel R. Beeke, Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of the People. The forward to this book is by Sinclair Ferguson. He notes that, in the words of Jonathan Edwards, the goal of Reformed experiential preaching is to “raise the affections of [the] hearers as high as [possible].” Dr. Beeke seeks to advocate a kind of preaching designed to engage both the mind and the heart. This is a book on preaching, and my prayer is that the congregation I minister to will benefit through my reading of the book. But it also seems to me a book meant for elders (who have the task of overseeing the preaching ministry in the church), and for members (who have the responsibility to evaluate everything they hear by the Scriptures and to apply it diligently in their lives when it truly is the Word of Christ). Often I’ve found that church members have personal preferences about what preaching ought to be. This is a book that will educate not only preachers, but those to whom they preach, helping both grow together in love for Christ and His Word. The book can be purchased for an excellent sale price here.

9. John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. I. This is another book that was required reading in seminary. My copy is well marked and highlighted. As one member of our congregation has said, “The spiritual life of a Christian can often be found in the margins of his or her books.” Calvin’s Institutes is a treasure trove of systematic theology and practical wisdom. I’m always struck by the clarity with which Calvin writes. Calvin’s clarity is a gift of God to the church, a gift for which our generation can be particularly thankful. This is not a book to be read just once. For that reason, I’m returning to it with eager anticipation of bringing out “things both old and new.”

10. Jonathan Cruse, The Christian’s True Identity. Jonathan Cruse is a young OPC minister who I am also privileged to count as a friend. He’s written a book on an exceptionally important and timely topic: the believer’s union with Christ. The church is being flooded with competing and conflicting claims upon our identity. How do we respond? The answer is to become more deeply rooted in the ancient soil of the Gospel. Jonathan is so humble that he never told me he had written a book. I only recently learned of it as I was listening to a podcast. After talking to him by phone for over an hour about his book, I decided it was another “must read” for 2020. The book may be found here.

That concludes my list. I hope to post some suggested Bible reading plans soon. Since Christ is always reigning, let’s take heart (by the grace of God) to be always reforming our hearts and lives according to the Word of Christ.

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