Book of the Month for April

For April, I am recommending a semi-oldie, but definitely a goodie. Given that we’re leading up to Good Friday and Easter, I wanted to recommend a book about…Jesus. I know, that sounds kind of hilarious.

April’s selection is Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God by Tim Keller. It was originally published in 2011 as King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus. So if you’ve read that book, it’s the same!

This book is adapted from a message series that Keller taught through the gospel of Mark. So it follows the order of events in the book of Mark, and one awesome thing is that this book makes you want to read the Bible more. So it’s a win-win – you can read a book and it’ll make you want to read The Book!

I’ve personally listened to this book a couple times this past month, as part of fasting from my usual podcasts & books, and it’s been as good as I remember it having been the first time I read it. It lives in a glowing memory for me, because during the early months of the pandemic, I read the book around the same time many of us watched Season 1 of Chosen, and I just remember randomly bursting out with, “I love Jesus!” “Jesus is so awesome!” The book is divided into two sections: “The King: the Identity of Jesus” and then “The Cross: The Purpose of Jesus.” So I wanted to recommend this book to all who haven’t read it yet, especially during this Easter season.

March’s Book(s) of the Month

Can you believe it’s March already? For March I have a couple of selections. There are a lot of wonderful books already recommended on the Lent Resources, so if you haven’t read those, I recommend starting there! I don’t want to stress people out with more recommendations, but I do know there are some avid readers out there who are looking for new and more books to read. The two I’ve chosen, in light of Lent and the month leading up to Easter, are newer books that led me to marvel at the gospel more, and also to love Jesus more.

The first is J.D. Greear’s new book Essential Christianity: The Heart of the Gospel in Ten Words. It came out last month, and I read it in one sitting (albeit a long sitting with several breaks!).

Greear uses Romans as a framework to go through the key questions and message of Christianity. This book is great for non-Christians who are interested in learning more about Christianity, new believers, and for Christians who want to deepen their faith too. I realize I basically said the book is good for everyone. 🙂 I could see it as a good book to read with someone who has taken Course 101 and wants to keep learning and discussing.

One thing I appreciate about Greear’s work is that he uses illustrations and stories that everyone can understand, distilling deep truths into concrete images and examples we can hold onto.

Here is one that might familiar to those of you who’ve read Gospel (if you haven’t, it’s on my (long) short list of Christian books), from the intro to Essential Christianity.

The gospel is not just the diving board off which you jump into Christianity―it’s the swimming pool in which you swim. See this book as your invitation to rediscover the goodness, the excitement, the liberation, and the power of the gospel

.If you’ve read his other books, listened to audiobooks he’s read, or listen to his podcast, you can definitely “hear” his voice as you read, and it was like having a conversation about Christianity with your neighbor who happens to be a pastor.

The second selection is Jesus Through the Eyes of Women: How the First Female Disciples Help Us Know and Love the Lord by Rebecca McLaughlin.

I found this book to be incredibly devotional, meaning I did come away knowing and loving Jesus my Lord more, like the title states.

One cannot help but fall in love with the Jesus that emerges through the course of this book. It goes without saying, but this book would be a great response to people who are resistant to Christianity because it is anti-women. March is also women’s history month. 🙂

While I think this book is for both men and women, there are some elements of the book that might make some men squeamish. It’s all stuff that is already in the Bible, but just wanted to give a little heads up.

Both books are available at the HB bookstore, for those of you in Berkeley. By the way, Essential Christianity is not yet available on audiobook, but JD Greear is going through the different topics of each chapter on his Ask Me Anything with JD Greear podcast.

Happy Reading, everyone!

Short Evangelistic Christmas Books

With Christmas just around the corner, I know many people are thinking of ways to engage family, friends, coworkers, neighbors with the true meaning of Christmas. I wanted to share some recommendations for evangelistic books you can give away as gifts this Christmas! All of them are short so it’s more likely that even people who don’t like to read will give the books a chance. I’m listing them by newest to oldest publication date. (My personal favorites are the McLaughlin and Greear books.) If you’ve stumbled upon some good books, let me know as well!

The Ultimate Christmas Wishlist: What if You Could Get What You’re Really Hoping For? by Rico Tice (2022). Tice uses Isaiah 9:6 and the names of Jesus to address people’s “Christmas wishlist” desires for hope, peace, purpose, and guidance. It is a good introduction to Christianity, and unlike the other Christmas books on this list, this book doesn’t focus only on the Nativity story. It’s designed to be used for outreach events and to start conversations.

Is Christmas Unbelievable?: Four Questions Everyone Should Ask About the World’s Most Famous Story by Rebecca McLaughlin (2021). This is an evangelistic book that uses an apologetics framework similar to Case for Christmas. Written by one of my current favorite authors, this 64-page book covers the following four questions in a super accessible way, with contemporary references to Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and more: 1. Was Jesus even a real person? 2. Can we take the gospels seriously? 3. How can you believe in a virgin birth? 4. Why does it matter? (Excited because Is Easter Unbelievable will be released in February, in time for this Easter!)

Searching for Christmas: What if There’s More to the Story Than You Thought? by J.D. Greear (2020). This book (also 64 pages) outlines the gospel also using Isaiah 9:6, and helps us understand how Jesus fulfilled the names “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” and “Prince of Peace.” And in a season so often focused on gifts, we see that Jesus is the one we truly need. I love this book because J.D. Greear is so readable and down-to-earth. As always, his examples and stories are funny but also get across their deeper-truth lessons.

The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger by Lee Strobel (2014) is the classic, the oldie-but-a-goodie told in the style of investigative journalism. Clocking in at a whopping 112 pages, this book addresses the following questions: Can the biographies of Jesus be trusted?; Does archaeology confirm or contradict Jesus’ biographies; Did Jesus fulfill the attributes of God?; Did Jesus–and Jesus alone–match the identity of the Messiah?