My Top Reads of 2022

I am all for new books. I just ordered one the other day. Still with each passing year, I find my heart increasingly aligned with C.S. Lewis’s rule to never allow oneself to read another new book “till you have read an old one in between.” Indeed, old books that make it to our time deserve our attention. If nothing else, we should be curious to know why they have survived when other volumes did not. I also suspect the more we read old books the more we will come to understand that the refinement of time ultimately furthers the stewardship of our time and thought today. As one can now guess, the books that most resonated with my soul this past year are rather well-seasoned if not downright ancient. If you are in the market for book to fill the space between the newer volumes on your shelf, I invite you to consider the following 3 options:

Link to My Goodreads stats for 2022

Being a Pastor

By: John Wycliffe

This small volume serves as a fantastic introduction into the stream of gospel-based theological discourse that shaped the theology of the Middle Ages. As Wycliffe’s principled defense of the authority of Scripture makes clear, the dark ages still contained many rays of truth (Click here for a brief introduction to Wycliffe’s life and ministry). Admittedly, Wycliffe remains very much a man of the Middle Ages. He possessed views on marriage and church-state relations that do not translate well into our modern theological discussions.

Thankfully, this book introduces readers to Wycliffe’s gospel convictions without distractions tied to the age of knights and princesses. The 102 pages that compose this volume clearly and concisely convey Wycliffe’s conviction that priests should stay with their sheep, should live pure, humble lives, and should preach the unadulterated gospel. In addition to repeatedly addressing the dangers of worldly greed, this book conveys Wycliffe’s passion for powerful preaching, a preaching that would replace the stories and poems that dominated so many sermons of his day with clear reflections upon the text of Scripture designed to produce biblical and lasting change. Lastly, the text provides readers with a sense of why the Catholic Church found Wycliffe so unsettling. The pages detail Wycliffe’s belief that priests, princes, and lay people should defy the pope and his officials whenever they violated the commands of Scriptures. Those who possess an interest in pastoral ministry, in English history, and in understanding how theology developed in the years leading up to the Reformation should grab a copy of this book…this window into the soul of the Middle Ages.  


We should take as an article of faith that God’s law surpasses all other in authority, in truth, in intelligence…Therefore, God commanded his apostles not to preach man’s law but to preach the Gospel to all kinds of people. Accordingly, those who preaching is a matter of jokes and telling stories are all the more to be blamed. For God’s Word must always be proclaimed faithfully if it is to be understood.

Christmas Thoughts

By: J.C. Ryle

This concise 128 volume written by Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle blessed my soul the past Christmas morn. Ryle’s focus upon the complete and never-ending promises of God warmed my heart which has been cooled be dampness of deep grief. He displays his genius in explicitly warning his readers of the perils of unbelief while also showing his readers how the human longing for perfect community finds it fulfillment not in Christmas gatherings which prove fleeting and forever incomplete but in the new heavens and new earth. That wonderful meeting will consist of all God’s people from ever age and will never end. There will be no more goodbyes. No more sense of loss. Ryle’s helpfully ties the glories of Christmas to the community of the Church (all belivers of all ages), providing a small and needed correction to the Western over preoccupation with family at the holidays. In other words, if you open to the possibility that a book could stir your heart to long for Christ, to love God’s people, and to evangelize the lost all while putting up your Christmas tree, I encourage you to read this small volume at Christmas.

Moreover, it’s application does not end with the holidays. As the book’s editor, Andrew Atherstone, noted, Ryle republished several of the tracts without the Christmas references, revealing the truths contained within to be appropriate for the holiday and yet to possess the ability to reach far beyond the bounds of December 25th. The truth of the gospel is powerful both in and out of season!  


But, thank God there is one great family whose prospects are very different. It is the family of which I am speaking in this tract, and commending to your attention. The future prospects of the family of God are not uncertain. They are good, and only good – happy and only happy.

Surprised By Suffering

By R.C. Sproul

For most of my life, I have spent my time meditating on how to live well. But on May 31, 2022, I abandon my preoccupation with life and began contemplating in earnest how one dies well. As April and I came face to face with the cruel truth that no cure, no medicine, no hope of life remained for her, I came across R.C. Sproul’s volume. Sproul’s discussion of death being a vocation, a calling, helped me to understand that April’s last weeks had a glorious purpose. They were a time for her and me to praise God. A time to call others to repentance and faith…to the hope of Jesus. A time to once again battle sin. A time to redouble her faith in her loving Father, trusting that he would forever hold her fast. In other words, a time to finish well the last race that God had set before her.

In one sense, we should all begrudge death. And yet in another sense, Sproul shows us that we can embrace it without fear. For the believer, death does not end in the sorrows of grave. As Sproul noted, “Ultimate healing comes through death after death.” The first half of the book resolutely reminds the hurting Christians that God is with us even at death, transforming tragedy into our greatest victory.  

The second half of the book which explores heaven grows a little more speculative therefore little less insightful. The book then concludes with a series of questions and answers that cover topics such as near-death experiences and what happens to babies when they die. Regardless of what one thinks of the second half of the book, the first half of this book which applies the balms of the gospel to the pain of death more than covers the price of this volume.

I believe this 158-page volume will bless both those who are facing the prospect of death and those who seek to love the dying. And if we are honest, that is all of us.


Teachers argue that there is healing in the atonement of Christ. Indeed there is. Jesus bore all our sins on the cross. Yet none of us is free from sin in this life. Likewise, none of us is free from the sickness in this life. The healing that is in the cross is real. We participate in its benefits now, in this life. But the fullness of the healing from both sin and disease takes place in heaven. We still must die at our appointed times.

2 Bonus Picks

Charity and It’s Fruits: by Jonathan Edwards

Grief: Walking With Jesus: by Bob Kellemen

3 Devotionals For Your 2022 Advent Season

Set against the backdrop of all the Christmas business that threatens to overwhelm us, the season of advent proves to be a blessing. It calls us to pause and to find hope afresh in the Christ child. Here are three fantastic devotionals that will help you and your family care for your soul this Christmas season.

The Weary World Rejoices

Put together by the editors and writers of the Gospel Coalition, this five-week devotional contains focused meditations centered upon the traditional themes of the advent wreath that can be used in a variety of ways. Each of the 25 devotionals begins with a Scriptural passage and then moves on to a 1–2-page reflection that feeds into a response section that contains a couple of questions that will help the reader (and if applicable the reader’s family) to apply the message to their life. Each devotion ends with a rejoice section that highlights a hymn. This 117-page devotional devotes 5 readings to each of the of the 5 advent themes that churches often focus upon when lighting their candles: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and Faith. The book can be read from Dec 1- Dec 25 or can be used once or twice a week to compliment your family devotions. I will be using modified selections from this book for some of our church’s advent readings and will also be reading this book with my kids during our family devotions. If you are looking for an advent devotional that will emphasize the traditional themes of advent through faithful exegesis of the Scriptures, I encourage you to grab a copy of this book.

Repeat the Sounding Joy

Christopher Ash’s 153-page book beautifully applies Luke’s account of the Christmas story to our lives over the span of 25 devotionals. Each day begins with a passage from Luke which then is followed by 2-4 pages of exposition that apply the Scriptures to the fears, struggles, traditions, expectations, and hopes that shape our holiday experiences. At the conclusion of each devotional, the reader will find a suggested hymn, prayer, and space to write down their own reflections. If you long to know the theology behind the first Christmas story better, I encourage you to grab a copy of this fantastic devotional. My family and I worked through it last December and were encouraged by Ash’s gospel-centered meditations which helped us to appreciate what Jesus has done and what he promises to do again. Adults, teenagers, and families with older kids intent upon enriching their faith this advent season would do well to spend this December reading their own copy of Repeat the Sounding Joy.

Gifts of Grace

Jared Wilson wants this book to serve as a spiritual advent calendar that presents its readers not with a Lego minifigure or a piece of chocolate but with something far more sustaining….one of the “myriad of gifts that Christians receive through the coming of Christ and belief in his gospel.” Not only is Wilson’s advent devotional quite readable, containing fantastic lines such as “Santa Clause is a big, fat legalist,” it is also profoundly theological. Each of the 25 devotions found in this 136-page book opens with a Scripture passage before turning to a story that guides the reader from fun reflections to deep theological meditations tied to terms such as propitiation, expiation, and idolatry. Each of the 4-page devotionals also contains a Christmas song theme that are clearly laid out in the book’s last two pages. Those looking for a fresh, engaging (you’d be hard press to find another devotional that mentions Donald Duck), and yet theologically sound devotional for their quiet times or their family’s devotional time should order a copy of Gifts of Grace.

Who Is an Evangelical?: A Review

When my professor said, he did not understand Henry David’s Thoreau’s book, Walden, my shoulders relaxed. Moments earlier, he had criticized my paper on Walden for having failed to grasp the point of Thoreau’s recounting of ants, birds, and rainstorms. The professor of literature then went on to say, he could not help me improve my essay because Thoreau had stumped him as well. According to my literature professor, Thoreau was so unique that he defied categorization.

The same could be said of the term evangelical. Though the word remains tied to the “born again” concept, no one has been able to standardize the content, belief, or practices of those who march under the evangelical banner. According to a 2020 Lifeway study, 26% of evangelicals deny the divinity of Jesus and 42% believe all religions lead to God. Evangelicals possess a wide array of theological, sexual, and political views that often conflict with their evangelical neighbors.

In his book, Who is and Evangelical: The History of A Movement in Crisis, historian and Baylor University professor, Thomas Kidd, steps into this quagmire, seeking to define the seemingly undefinable. He writes, “Evangelicals are born-again Protestants who cherish the Bible as the Word of God and who emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit (4).” Sadly even as the ink dries on the pages of this 2019 volume, this definition has already begun to dissolve into ill-defined gray matter. In the before mentioned 2020 Lifeway study, only 32% of self-identified evangelicals believed the Bible was true and only 49% of the respondents affirmed the need for the Holy Spirit to give new birth. The new birth, evangelical language of Whitefield and the pietist which emphasized the importance of the Holy Spirit has not aged well, making the movement which transcends both denominational and sociological definitions that much harder to define.

Who is An Evangelical?

Despite the book’s title, Kidd appears comfortable with the ameba like nature of the evangelical movement. As Kidd tracks the development of evangelicalism which begins with George Whitefield and ends with Donald Trump, he chronicles a movement that has been forever unsettled. Evangelicals embraced African Americans, Hispanics, and female converts while simultaneously advocating for slavery, segregation, and restrictive male headship. According to Kidd, the movement has been shaped by a never-ending onslaught of small and large conflicts.

But in 1951 at the behest of Billy Graham, evangelism entered a new and a defining crisis. That year Graham asked the nominal religious and non-evangelical General Dwight Eisenhower to run for president. By supporting Eisenhower and eventually Nixon, Kidd believes Graham transformed evangelism from a movement of spiritual conversion into an organization that promoted the civil religion of spiritual patriotism. From that point on, Kidd claimed white evangelicals egged on by the secular media would confuse, “political power and access to Republican leaders with the advancement of God’s kingdom (93).” This blending of faith and politics benefited the Republican party far more than it advanced the cause of Christ. But instead of abandoning the party and calling a spade a spade, Kidd reports that 81% of white evangelicals doubled down on their commitment to political power and voted for President Donald Trump. By supporting a man whose life contradicted the values of the gospel, evangelicals revealed that their movement was now more politically than spiritually minded.

At this juncture, Kidd’s thesis becomes clear. He writes not so much to define the indefinable but to call the ameba of evangelism to return to the pond of theology. Kidd laments the notion shared by some, “that political behavior is what makes an evangelical and evangelical (151).” He goes on to write, “Partisan politics have come and gone…But conversion, devotion to an infallible Bible, and God’s discernable presence are what make an evangelical and evangelical (156).” In other words, evangelicals should first and foremost be born again believers instead of political activists.


I concur with Kidd’s overarching analysis, appreciating his ability to deal with hundreds of years of history in the span of 156 pages. But I also think the conciseness of the volume stunted the development of his argument. Though Kidd ties evangelicals to the Holy Spirit, he does not tease out how an evangelical’s understanding of the Holy Spirit shapes that soul’s understanding of scripture which in-turn shapes the evangelical’s understanding cultural engagement. I’m curious to know if Whitefield’s, Graham’s, and A.W Criswell’s accommodation to worldly norms was spawned by a spiritism that allowed them to negate the teaching of the Scriptures. In other words, did these men misstep because they were following their impression of the Word or the Spirit?

Lastly, I wish Kidd had interacted more with the works of his historical mentor George Marsden. Though Kidd locates the downfall of evangelicalism in the 1950’s, he does not intently interact with the patriotism of the World War 1 era that transformed how many conservative churches viewed politics. Since Kidd locates the start of evangelicalism in the 1700’s, he should have allocated more space to the Woodrow Wilson era.

Final Thoughts

I think at the end of the day, Kidd would agree that no one can finally say who is an evangelical. But he also believes that the message of evangelicalism can be historically defined as a “message of conversion and eternal salvation, not partisan politics (10).” Though I do not agree with all of Kidd’s analysis, I believe his attempt to return the evangelical ameba to the pond of theology is needed. May we all swim in the waters of spiritual reflection.