Forming a book list, 2022

I read a goodly number of books in 2020. In 2021, I put a slew of book selections on a “To Read This Year” Shelf, and have read a number of them, but most did not get cracked open. I wasn’t quite as prolific in 2021. For one thing, I ended up reading large portions of other books not on my list in research for my writing, and this took up some of that reading time.

Once again, I’ll clear the shelf and start over. Some titles from last year will rejoin the shelf in 2022. Others will be pushed aside and replaced by new tomes that have caught my fancy.

I tend to favor books of a certain kind, particularly theological and biblical studies. Because I want to have a variety of intellectual input, I am identifying several kinds of books that I want to read. Please note that these make up the material I read for personal instruction and development, not pleasure reading. I also do a fair amount of reading for the fun of it, and I’m not as picky on that score.

So, here goes with some of the kinds of books I want to be sure to read in 2022.

1. Some old books

There is a richness, particularly in Christian literature, in the elder works that you don’t find today. Consequently, I have picked up Volume VI of The Works of John Owen, and I intend to power through his work, On the Mortification of Sin. The full title is ever much the slog that the text promises to be: Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers; the Necessity, Nature, and Means of It: with a Resolution of Sundry Cases of Conscience Thereunto Belonging. Thankfully, the text is not overly long. However, despite its anachronistic verbiage for today’s ears, several quotes I have read from Owen are so insightful, so deep that I am sure to benefit from the effort.

2. Some new works

God is continually blessing his Church with great writers and great writings. I have picked up a brand-new title from Paul David Tripp called Do You Believe? 12 Historic Doctrines to Change Your Everyday Life. I’m always on the lookout for those works that make systematic theology accessible to the average Christian reader. And Tripp is one of the better authors I’ve read recently. At a first glance, this doctrinal survey appears to be both instructive and pastoral, as I would expect from Tripp.

3. Something borrowed, something blue…(just kidding).

3. (for real) Some books I may not agree with

Back in the 70s when I was studying in Bible college, and then in the 80s, there arose an evangelical conflict over the idea of “Lordship Salvation.” This controversy was codified in the writings of Charles Ryrie and John MacArthur, standing on opposite sides of the question of what constitutes true faith in Christ. At the earliest time of this, I recall being somewhat put off by the incongruous idea that I could somehow “believe” Christ for eternal salvation and yet even be in open rebellion to him and still be saved, as one person claimed to me. Maybe that was a caricature. And as I further studied, I came to the same conclusions as many in a more Reformed camp, that the faith that saves alone is not alone, but is accompanied by works. To others, this is akin to being saved by works.

In response to this, I have picked up a book that holds to what is now called the Free Grace position – Back to Faith: Reclaiming Gospel Clarity in an Age of Incongruence by Fred R. Lybrand. At first glance, it appears to be an attempt at a well-reasoned argument. If I’m going to read something I might not agree with, I don’t want a mere polemic that creates strawman arguments to shoot down; I want something that takes my side seriously. This book appears to do that. It is my hope that by reading a different point of view, I will come to better understand the other side, detect blind spots in my own thoughts, and be equipped to answer objections to my theology. I don’t really expect to be convinced to abandon a theology honed and developed over the course of my life, but with God, you never know.

4. A biography

Two years ago, I read a fine biography on Martin Lloyd-Jones by Steven Lawson. It especially focused on his preaching, and it really helped me solidify some thoughts on the pulpit and those times when I have the chance to preach. This year, from the same series, I am going to read The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes by Mark Dever. Sibbes was a Puritan pastor, and I hope to glean from his example some pastoral skills that will be relevant in this divided time. Biographies are of great encouragement in the Christian life. Just peruse Hebrews 11 to see the power of biography.

5. A call to action

As I said, we live in divided times. Even withing the local church, there are differing opinions on civic matters. As a church elder, I sometimes feel paralyzed to speak, for I know that while the message of the gospel transcends political and social lines, some of the implications of the gospel are divisive even within my congregation. Consequently, I have picked up the book, Compassion & Conviction: The AND CAMPAIGN’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement. I am hoping that it helps shape my voice and action.

There will be plenty of other books on the “To Read This Year” Shelf. But each of these categories is a little bit out of my comfort zone for various reasons. I’m looking forward to the enrichment.

New book – research begun

I’ve begun the research and writing for a new book, hopefully to release this year, but it may take me into 2022. I’m not ready to reveal the content or title yet, but I’ve pictured some of the books I’m researching for this project. Oh, and I should have included the Bible in my research as well.

Please pray for this endeavor. I am hoping that through this work, believers will treasure God’s great salvation more greatly.

And my first book, Take Root Bear Fruit, is still available. You can order it here.

Knox reads books: 2020 reading list

2020 may have been a year like no other, but that doesn’t mean that some good things didn’t happen. This happened to be a year when I committed to reading books that would help me grow and think. I tried to commit to read 30 minutes a day from my chosen reading stack of developmental, theological, or devotional tomes. (I also read for pleasure each night before bed, fictional titles that were just for fun.)

Now, I’m not the voracious reader that supposedly Tim Keller is (3 books/week), or Spurgeon (6), Rick Warren (7), Don Carson (9), or Albert Mohler (10), but I probably read more this year than I have since my college days when such things were assigned. I’d like to say I kept to the 30-minute goal throughout the year, but it did tail off toward the end of the year, so that I I hit my goal of 24 books early in the 4th quarter and only added 1 more by the end for a total of 25 non-fiction books for my growth and development.

Here’s a little bit about my 2020 reading list.

3 titles from Michael Hyatt. I’ve become a bit of a Hyatt disciple, using his Full Focus Planner and gobbling up new titles as they’re released. I started Free to Focus in 2019 and finished it early in 2020, and this productivity system, along with his planner, has revolutionized my time management and goal-setting. The Vision-Driven Leader and No-Fail Communication were both helpful in my professional life, and we adopted several systems from these books.

Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. This was read as part of my training for becoming an elder. I’ve been a Christian since I was 10, but my greatest growth in the past 10-12 years has been in my understanding of the gospel. This book was part of that. I wish I had learned this 40 years ago.

Does God Control Everything? by RC Sproul. This tiny little book is part of Sproul’s “Crucial Questions” series. Written in his clear, inimitable style. And, yes. Yes, God does control everything.

One-to-One Bible Reading by David R. Helm. From the people who brought us The Trellis and the Vine, this is a handy booklet for getting you started in evangelistic or discipling endeavors of Bible reading.

Making Vision Stick by Andy Stanley. What Stanley lacks in theology, he makes up for in practical leadership advice. He’s an effective communicator, and this book is an example of that.

True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer. This is a title I hadn’t read from Schaeffer back in my college days when I was reading a lot from this theologian-philosopher. It’s been awhile since I’d read him, and this was heady stuff but fitting in with what I’ve been learning about the gospel.

The Reformed Faith by Loraine Boettner. According to Goodreads, this was my shortest book. I find it beneficial to regularly remind myself of the doctrines of grace. This book did the trick.

Worship Leaders, We are not Rock Stars by Stephen Miller. As an occasional worship musician, this was a helpful reminder of what we need to be about. I could have used more negative examples, but I’m sure he didn’t want to cast aspersions on other worship leaders.

Mover of Men and Mountains by R.G. LeTourneau. This book was a gift from a customer and as I was already somewhat familiar with LeTourneau, I was happy to read this autobiography. His story goes all the way back to the late 19th century, and it was interesting to see how this engineer and inventor devised ways to move great amounts of earth in his building endeavors. There was also a bit of cringiness as he spoke in glowing terms of how much forest could be cleared in South America and Africa in short periods of time. But, it was a different time with different sensibilities.

Coronavirus and Christ by John Piper. This short book was quickly released in the wake of the onset of the COVID pandemic, almost like those supermarket paperbacks that come out a week after a celebrity dies. This book was somewhat controversial when a head army chaplain secured copies for his subordinates. This was due to Piper’s contention that one of the reasons for the pandemic may have been God’s judgment on sin. However, this book is biblically rich and almost a prophetic word that we need to hear.

The Gospel-Centered Life by Robert Thune and Will Walker. Another book in my journey toward a greater understanding of the gospel, I would recommend this for any small group to tackle.

North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek. This was a gift from a friend. It’s the first-person account of an ultramarathoner who ran the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail in just over 46 days. Nothing in his interesting account has inspired me to try to beat his record.

Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy. When I was prepping to become an elder in my church, I identified the concept of “God’s kingdom” as one that I needed further study on. This was one book that was recommended.

The Push: A Climber’s Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits by Tommy Caldwell. I read this after seeing the movie The Dawn Wall. Both tell Tommy’s story of free-climbing the Dawn Wall face of El Capitan. Yosemite is one of my favorite places, and this captures the climbing culture well.

The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. I worked through this fine collection one prayer at a time in my bedtime ritual. The Puritans had a way with words. Beautiful prayers.

Sex and the Supremacy of Christ by John Piper, others. This book was the transcript from the 2004 Desiring God National Conference, and the content is even more relevant today, particularly the address by Al Mohler on homosexuality. It was rather odd to hear Josh Harris and his “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” spoken of in positive terms, given that he has since disavowed that teaching and eventually gave up the faith. Sad.

The Passionate Preaching of Martyn-Lloyd Jones by Steven Lawson. I love biographies as shown by no less than 5 read this past year. As an ocassional preacher, I was interested in how Lloyd-Jones went about it. It was good to be reminded of the need to align to and preach from the text of Scripture. Funny stories are not necessary.

The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689. I read this also as a part of my bedtime ritual to remind myself of my core beliefs.

Pickin’ Up the Pieces: The Heart and Soul of Country Rock Pioneer Richie Furay by Richie Furay. Richie launched the bands Buffalo Springfield, Poco, and the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band in the 60s and 70s, seeking fame before coming to faith in Jesus Christ. After a successful solo career, he became a Colorado pastor. He’s still alive, still sings both his old catalog and his newer songs.

The Gift of Faith: Discovering the Glory of God in Salvation by Bryan Holstrom. A well-written exposition of the early chapters of Ephesians and other Scriptures, laying out a Reformed understanding of the doctrines of grace.

A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent. I highly recommend this short book! Based on the idea of “preaching the gospel to yourself every day,” it contains short passages that remind us of our standing in the gospel. This was my second time through this book.

The Grace Effect: What Happens When Our Brokenness Collides with God’s Grace by Kyle Idleman. This is an excerpt from a larger book. It’s a comforting message of encouragement in the grace of God.

Deep Discipleship by J.T. English. This book is a call for churches to take seriously the need for creating learning environments (and not just community environments) in their discipleship programs. Much of this book resonated with me in my passion for biblical literacy among God’s people.

There were several other fictional books that I read for pleasure (I finished the Lord of the Rings trilogy – again). I’ve also created a stack for 2021, sure to be added to as I discover and buy new books. I am hoping to hit 40 books this year, all-inclusive of reading for pleasure and reading for development and growth.