Hi, my name is Terence and I’m your host for Reading and Readers, a podcast where I review Christian books for you. Except today, I don’t review a book. Instead I do my annual Year End Reflection where I look back and consider what are the books that have, thus far, made a lasting impression on me.
This year, unlike previous years, I did not give myself much opportunity to reflect or to practise what I read.
Having said that, I was surprised by how much the printed word has managed to make an imprint on me. Like a gardener who neglected his garden which is now overrun with weeds, I found to my delight that in some corners, seeds have survived and grown and bear fruit.
As I look back at all the books I have reviewed in this podcast, there were a few titles that come to mind over and over again. In brief, in order of appearance in the podcast, these are the seven books read in the past that was meaningful to me this year:
Episode 7: Providence by John Piper. When I have conversations with anyone on the sovereignty of God, I try to recall as much as I can from Piper’s brilliant exposition. He left me utterly convinced of God’s Providence in every part of creation. And most wonderful of all is this truth is not just a talking point I use in conversations but it has shaped my spiritual posture towards God, always rejoicing, always trusting. Providence is a thick book, 752 pages. I thank God that I read this big book earlier because I don’t think I would have the mental, emotional, spiritual strength to lift this book this year. But because I did, it has laid a strong foundation for how to receive God’s Truth, to rejoice in it and to rely on the wonderful providence of God.
Episode 17: Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit by Chris Wright. I don’t know whether this would offend Chris or make him smile, but the one thing I remember from his book is from his introduction, on how John Stott would every morning pray the Fruit of the Holy Spirit and how Stott was considered by many to be the most Christ-like person they know. I do pray the Fruit of the Spirit, but not everyday, only when I face trials. I also remember how after finishing the book, how I wished to be more Christ-like. I have made pretty bad decisions, and I own those bad decisions, but where I have made good decisions, it is out of this desire to be more Christ-like, and I thank the Holy Spirit for this.
Episode 25: Death of Porn by Ray Ortlund. A book that has given me some anguish, often despair, and after some preaching to myself, that despair turns to repentance. Two insights that have continued to guide my thoughts. First is when we look for porn, what we are really looking for is Jesus. I was shocked how Ortlund put porn and Jesus in the same sentence. I’m still shocked. It reveals our desperate futility for something that can only be found in Christ. The second insight is we make a budget for sin. I never thought about it as a budget. If I do this and that for God, then surely all the good I do will offset the little sin I do here. It’s a lie I tell myself and Ortlund exposes it.
Episode 30: Sunsets: Reflections on Life’s Final Journey by Deborah Howard. The author is a Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse. She takes care of people who are going to die soon. Death is an icky subject. It’s taboo. But the reality is people around me have died, some this year. The people around me will die, maybe sooner than expected, maybe suddenly, maybe it’s me. Howard has helped me process dying, death and life after death. Since everyone dies, this book should be required reading for all.
Episode 33: God, Technology and Christian Life by Tony Reinke. These are early days of drone warfare. Soldiers can work from home to kill the enemy in a far away land. That is if they can keep their jobs after A.I. has taken everyone else’s jobs. It is easy to get carried away by the headlines. In Reinke’s book, he reminds me that when everything is changing, everything is still the same. God is still in control. He never lost it. And so every exuberance, every anxiety must be tempered by the truth that God is over all, including technology. My Christian life is all the better for this truth. Better than the latest Apple, Google or Facebook product is the firm knowledge that God is over all.
Episode 42: Theology of Reconciliation by Ruth Khoury Mansour. I bought this book because it was written by a Palestinian Christian on reconciliation. It’s a monograph, so I paid for a research thesis. Every research thesis I read is dry as dust. But because of the subject matter and her writing style, through her literature review and methodology, analysis and conclusion, I managed to get a picture of life as a Baptist in Palestine, living amidst conflict, Israelis vs. Palestinians, Muslims vs. Christians, Baptists vs. other Baptists. With the kidnapping, war and airstrikes constantly in the news, I wonder how are my Palestinian brothers and sisters in Christ. Reconciliation seems so impossible, yet we have hope in Christ.
Episode 72: On Getting Out of Bed by Alan Noble. The title sums up the year for me. There are days when it is difficult to get out of bed. You open your phone to the rest of the world posting their achievements, the rewards of success and you can join them too, all you need is a bit of direction and effort, just do steps 1, 2 and 3, and you can be a success too. Alan Noble’s book is a comforting hug when all one can muster is just to get out of bed. If you have problems getting out of bed, this short book is better than the loudest alarm clock you can buy.
That’s it. Seven books. Let me emphasise, this is not my list of top seven books. Nor would I necessarily recommend these books to you because, where you are in life right now, you may need other books.
These are seven books that have sustained me in my faith through my trials and my temptations in 2023. What I read a long time back has helped me to think through what concerns me today: the emergence of A.I. and the Israel-Gaza war. I invested my time in good company and they have helped me in ways unexpected.
Today’s episode is less on the books and more about me. It’s less on the reading and more on the reader. And through my sharing, I hope in a small way, it encourages you to read a good book because what you store in your heart and mind may one day be providentially what you need.
To read my full reviews or get the links to the books I mention, you can scroll to the bottom of this episode description or visit readingandreaders.com. You can also drop a note in the contact page of the website, that’s readingandreaders.com.
If you are not a reader yet, I hope you will be in 2024. Happy New Year. Bye bye.
- Providence by John Piper. Review.
- Cultivating the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. Review.
- Death of Porn by Ray Ortlund. Review.
- Sunsets: Reflections on Life’s Final Journey by Deborah Howard. Review.
- God, Technology and Christian Life by Tony Reinke. Review.
- Theology of Reconciliation by Ruth Khoury Mansour. Review.
- On Getting Out of Bed by Alan Noble. Review.