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

Why The Church Will Always Be the Same: A Coronavirus’s History Lesson

merry go round

The coronavirus has spun the world around like the vindictive kid standing next to an old merry-go-round. As humanity has hung on for dear life, some church leaders have declared that the violent spins will fundamentally alter the when and how people assemble. To survive, pastors and their congregations must learn to navigate the spinning wobbles of the coronavirus world through appeals to leadership coaches, political theories, sociologists, psychologists, and biologists.

Though the rotations of the 2020 merry-go-round have given the riders the impression that the they are moving across the playground, the foundation of the church has not moved and will not move. It remains forever anchored to the unchanging God of the universe. The mission of the local church which is comprised of redeemed men and women who have convenented together to live out the gospel in community is and forever will be to glorify God. The church will always assemble to worship the one true God. The historical record proves the fixed nature of the church, revealing that plagues, masks, and social distancing have not fundamentally changed the church.

A Brief History of Churches and Plagues

The coronavirus is not the first virus that has spun around the people of God with all the care of a ten-year-old bully. Church has withstood past challenges which threatened to ‘radically’ alter the bride of Christ. In 165 A.D. and again in 260 A.D plagues ravaged the world of the early church fathers, killing as much as 30% of the Roman world’s population according to historian Rodney Stark. The Bishop Dionysius was able to successfully pastor his generation through terror that “prevails over all hope.” When the plagues subsided, the church remained. Dionysius believed the plague of 260 A.D. had been a positive “instrument for our training and probation.”

In addition to medical issues, the church has wrestled through the secondary challenges and moral dilemmas that the coronavirus has brought to the church’s attention. During the plague of 1527, Martin Luther harshly condemned Germans who knowingly exposed their neighbors to the plague as “prank like putting lice into fur garments or flies into someone’s living room.” During the Cholera Outbreak of 1866, Spurgeon had to remind Christians that science did not threaten their faith. He said,

I am thankful that there are many men of intelligence and scientific information who can speak well upon… the laws of cleanliness and health. So far from being angry with those who instruct the people in useful secular knowledge, he ought rather to be thankful for them…The gospel has no quarrel with ventilation, and the doctrines of grace have no dispute with chloride of lime.

The particularly challenging topic of whether or not to meet during times of biological peril has also been address by the church of old.

Spurgeon kept holding services because his church’s neighborhood was not quarantined during the second cholera outbreak.

Similarly, Luther encouraged his followers to attend church so that they could “learn through God’s word how to live and how to die.” But, he also thought Christians had the freedom to leave cities struggling with the plague and believed the sick should avoid large gatherings. He wrote.

It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best his is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death.

Richard Baxter who lived through the great London plague of 1665, leaned toward the side of caution. He encouraged the church to suspend operations when facing medical and civil crisisses not tied to gospel proclamation. He wrote,

If the magistrate for a greater good, (as the common safety,) forbid church-assemblies in a time of pestilence, assault of enemies, or fire, or the like necessity, it is a duty to obey him….[we] omit some assemblies for a time, that we may thereby have opportunity.

Ashbel Green concurred, encouraging the churches of Philadelphia to suspend their meetings during the plague of 1798 which claimed 3,400 lives. He refused to meet with his congregation from a “conviction to duty.” He believed that the “long and tedious” interval between services would help would perfect the church while she waited for divine deliverance.

Lastly, Francis Grimke who pastored in Washington D.C. during the Spanish Flu of 1918 supported the temporary closure of churches, theatres, and schools though other evangelicals grumbled. He wrote,

If as a matter of fact, it was dangerous to meet in theatres and in the schools, it certainly was no less dangerous to meet in churches…it was wise to take the precaution and not needlessly run in danger and expect God to protect us.

By God’s grace, the church of the past has successfully weathered spins on the pandemic merry-go-round, arriving in the form we recognize today.

Though some church leaders clamor about declaring the challenges of the coronavirus to be earth shattering, the history of the church proves the opposite to be true. As Ecclesiastics 1:10-11 notes,

Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.

If anything, the writings of Grimke, Spurgeon, and Green have revealed that plagues never substantial changed the nature of the church. Once the coronavirus merry-go-round stops spinning, history indicates most Christians and people will forget that the church was ever spun about. This is the greatest challenge the church faces today.

The Greatest Threat to The Church

The greatest threat of a pandemic resides not in is ability to change the church but in humanity’s ability to forget it ever occurred, missing the divine lessons which God promotes through trials.

In 1918, Grimke hoped the Spanish flu would, “beat a little sense into the white man’s head” because no one could deny that “White and black alike are dealt with indiscriminately: the one is smitten as readily as the other.” The need for the civil rights movement and the social unrest of 2020 have revealed that this lesson has not been taken to heart. Similarly, Spurgeon had wished that the plague of 1866 would usher in a revival, calling the people of London to forsake drunkenness, fornication, their lack of church attendance and their fascination with Catholicism. But the plague of 1866 like the plague of 1854 produced little change. Spurgeon later lamented,

Alas! for your piety! It was as the morning cloud, and as the early dew it passed away…We prayed; we sent for the minister; we devoted ourselves to God; we vowed, if he would spare us, we would live better. Here thou art, my hearer, just what thou wast before thy sickness.

Ashebel Green concurred, noting that populations often forget the lessons learned during plagues, returning to their earlier sins. He lamented:

We have actually grown worse, and not better, by all the chastisements we have been made to endure feel for this past five years.

Spurgeon feared that the church’s inability to heed God’s displeasure would result in the people of God being “ravaged by a pestilence worse than the plague: I mean the pestilence of deadly soul-destroying error.” Sadly, his warning has proved prophetic.

The merry-go-round will not change the church but it may afflict the church with gospel amnesia which will blunt the spread of the kingdom of God. Instead of strategizing about how to prepare for future changes that will prove insignificant in a few months time, believers should plead with God to bless the trials of today with gospel fruitfulness. Green reminds us:

Our past experiences has surely been enough to convince us, that no providence, however afflictive, awful or awakening in themselves, will make us any better, but rather much worse unless God accompany by the influences of his grace.

May God be with us all!