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Books I Read in 2022 You Should Read in 2023

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 BY BENJAMIN R. LEE, Associate Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian  

     Well, another year has passed and another reading goal is in the books, so to speak. Every year I set a new reading goal intending to stretch myself, continue to learn, and Lord willing, grow closer to Christ. At the beginning of each new year, I like to reflect on the books I read during the past year as I set my goal for the upcoming year. I’ve found this to be both encouraging and motivating. I’m encouraged as I reflect on the great books I encountered and the many things I learned during the year. It’s motivating because the list of books looks so much smaller when it’s written out, and that makes me want to read more in the future!

     I’d like to share with you some of my favorite reads from 2022 and encourage you to add one or two of them to your own book list.

     As many of you might remember from the previous post about books, I love the Harry Potter series and I’m almost always reading (or listening to) one of the volumes. I did read some of those books this year, but I’m going to add a different work of fiction here. Somehow 2022 reignited a childhood love for The Lord of the Rings. Maybe it was the new Amazon series, but whatever it was I made my way through the entire series, and I found The Fellowship of the Ring to be a particularly beautiful read. I also read Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien, and oh man, is that a fantastic piece of literature! If you’ve never encountered Tolkien’s masterpieces, make 2023 the year!

     I always love a good book recommendation and Sue Johnson’s book Created for Connection; The ‘Hold Me Tight’ Guide for Christian Couples is one I’m thankful came my way! I’ve read many books on marriage over the years, but this one might be the best. It is without a doubt the most practical marriage book I’ve read. Sue Johnson helps you to see the ‘why’ behind so much marital conflict. And she has more to say than “you fight because you are sinners” – as true as that is. Much of our sin and subsequent conflict arises, according to Sue, when the thing which marriage is designed to provide (and for which we all long) is interrupted: intimacy, not merely physical intimacy, but deep connection. I highly recommend this book.

     Another top book from 2022 came by way of recommendation from Pastor Dan: Be Thou My Vision; A Liturgy for Daily Worship by Jonathan Gibson. This book is just what it sounds like: a month’s worth of daily liturgies designed to facilitate private and family worship. Each day you’ll find a call to worship, prayers of adoration, confession, and assurance, creeds and confessions, scripture readings, and guides for intercessory prayer. This is a wonderful aid for daily devotions!

     Last year Carl Truman published an academic work entitled The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. It was an instant classic written to explain how our culture has arrived at our present cultural moment. It’s a worthwhile read, but it’s a bit of a slog. Thankfully this year Truman published the every man’s version of the book called Strange New World; How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution. This is essentially a scaled-down version of his earlier work. Those if you interested in the development of western culture, and in thinking about what it looks like to be a Christian in western culture, will want to grab a copy.

     I try to choose a few biographies off the shelf each year, and in 2022 I stumbled across Peter Stark’s volume on George Washington entitled Young Washington; How Wilderness and War Forged America’s Founding Fathers. This work was different from other biographies I’ve encountered on my favorite president. Stark covers only Washington’s early years focusing particularly on his experience as an officer in the British Royal Army. If you’re a history buff this is a book worth picking up.

      Finally, if you’re like me and tend to be an anxious sort of person, maybe especially anxious when it comes to your practice of the Christian faith, you’re going to want to read Phillip Carry’s book Good News for Anxious Christians; 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have To Do. Carry helps us to think more deeply about some of those things that tend to make anxious Christians anxious; finding God’s will, discerning motivations, experiencing joy, being transformed, and much more. He’s trying to help Christians shift from an inward-focused, experienced-based Christianity to a Christ-focused, gospel-based Christianity. I loved it!

     Here are a few others you might want to check out:




Posted by Rev. Ben Lee with
Tags: books, 2023, 2022

Books I Read in 2021 You Should Read in 2022

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BY BENJAMIN R. LEE, Assistant Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian  

     It’s that time of year again. At the beginning of every year, I find myself looking back at the books I read in the previous year and planning for the ones I want to engage with in the new year. I have a growing list of books planned for this year, and a goal for how many I hope to read. We have a lot of book worms at Oakwood, so I’m sure many of you have a similar practice at the beginning of the year. That’s why I’m giving you this list of my favorite reads from 2021. Maybe one of these will find its way on your 2022 book list!

The "Just-For-Fun" Book

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
By JK Rowling

     Harry finds his way onto my list every year, and for good reason. This is the best fiction story of our generation, and it ranks right up there in history with the greats like The Lord of the Rings. Don’t @ me! It’s true. Maggie and I have just recently begun reading the series with our boys, so I’m sure you’ll see another of JK Rowling’s masterpieces again on next year’s list.

The "I’m-Telling-Everybody-About-This-Book" Book

The Puzzle of Ancient Man: Evidence for Advanced Technology in Past Civilizations
By Donald Chittick

     My dad told me about this book, and I am glad he did. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but the content was fascinating. Chittick examines the architectural, engineering, and even artistic accomplishments of ancient civilizations (think Egypt), and argues that these ancient people must have had greater knowledge than we often attribute to them. For example, Egypt’s Great Pyramid is constructed of 2.3 million blocks, each of which weighs more than 1 ton. Historians estimate it took 100,000 men 20 years to build it. If those men worked 10 hour days, 365 days a year for 20 years, they would have to place 31 of those blocks each hour. And that doesn’t take into account the cutting and transportation of those blocks! Modern-day engineers estimate that with today’s modern machinery it would take 27 years just to cut the stone, let alone to build the pyramid. The book doesn’t offer more than hypotheses for how all this was accomplished, but it’s a fascinating read!

The "This-Book-Is-Important" Book

Liberty for All; Defending Everyone’s Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Age
Andrew Walker

     In recent years Christians, and other religious folks, in America have been asking a question that most of our forebearers were blessed to take for granted, "Will religious liberty endure for the next generation?" The rise of the concept of “sexual liberty” over the last 10 or so years has called this into question. As issues involving gay marriage and “trans rights” have emerged, our culture has been forced to ask how (or if) sexual freedom and religious freedom can co-exist. What we are increasingly discovering is that they cannot. One will inevitably drown the other out. This book makes the argument that for the good of the entire society religious freedom must remain our “first freedom.” Yes, this book is important. I hope you will read this book, consider its ideas, and stand for this freedom for Christians, and for people of every faith.

The "Baptism" Book

Word, Water, and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism
JV Jesko

     Oh man, guys. This book is awesome! There are definitely a lot of folks at Oakwood who have questions about our view of baptism. Look no further! Whether you come from a Baptist background and are wanting to better understand what you’re getting yourself into at Oakwood, or you’re happily convinced on the matter and want to dive into the beauty of this sacrament, this book is for you. It is a bit on the academic side of things, but Fesko is a fabulous writer. I don’t think you’ll find it too burdensome. And if you want to skip over the historical stuff on the front end, and skip to the biblical justification for baptism and its meaning, you’ll still gain a ton! Seriously, pick this one up!

The "Theological-Mic-Drop" Book

Simply Trinity; The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit
Matthew Barret

     Sometimes theologians and academic types get into biblical sparring matches that don’t matter all that much in the end. That is not the case with this book. Over the past 10 years, a significant debate has been brewing dealing directly with the nature of the Trinity. Recently, a group of theologians (Most notably Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware, and Owen Strachan) have argued that there exists within the Trinity what they call “relations of authority and submission.” Their view is variously called “Eternal Functional Subordination” or “the Eternal Subordination of the Son.” Sometimes you see it abbreviated to EFS or ESS. It’s a highly problematic view with wide-ranging implications. First and foremost, if Christ is truly “eternally subordinate to the Father” as they argue, then he cannot be “co-equal” with God as the church has confessed since the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. This book is an attempt to call out this view for what it is: a Christological error bordering on heresy... and it’s fabulous. When I finished the book I thought to myself, “I don’t know how you could read this and still conclude ESS is legitimate. This book is Matthew Barrett’s mic drop on ESS.

The "Books-For-Dads" Books

The Boy Crisis; Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What You Can Do About It
Warren Farrell and John Gray

The Intentional Father; A Practical Guide to Raise Sons of Courage and Character
Jon Tyson

     I couldn’t decide which one to recommend, so I’m just giving you both. As a dad with three boys one thing that regularly crosses my mind is how in the world I’m supposed to develop these goofy and awesome boys into men. So, I’m regularly looking for books with a bit of wisdom to offer. That said, The Boy Crisis isn’t so much advice as it is a look at why so many boys are struggling in our modern world. What makes this book so worthwhile is that after pointing out the many struggles of boys, the authors propose the research-based solution: dads. What is so remarkable about this is that these authors don’t appear to be believers. They’re just researchers who’ve picked up on something that God has written in the fabric of reality: that dads play a key role in their son’s development.

     The Intentional Father is a more practical guide to raising boys. The author, Jon Tyson, is a pastor in New York and his central thesis is that developing boys into men requires more than haphazard, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attempts. It demands intentionality. The weakness of the book is that Jon is essentially just telling us what he did, though he certainly admits that his way isn’t the only way. This book is not the silver bullet for raising boys, but I think reading what this dad did will generate both ideas and motivation. If you’re raising boys it’s worth the read!

     Well, there you go! I hope you found something here worth checking out. If not, that’s okay too! Enjoy your reading in 2022, and let me know if you find a book you couldn’t put down.

Posted by Rev. Ben Lee with