Just before the pandemic, it seemed like people were losing Hope in the church. Disinterested people were finding that it seemed like the church is out of touch and unplugged from what the rest of the world is dealing with. According to the BibleGateway.com reports that their search engines saw an uptick this year in people trying to determine what the Bible says about social justice, disease, and social upheaval.
In a general sense, 2020 brought us a lot more questions than it did answers. With all of the unexpected difficulty, death, and disease that this year contained, it’s a little frustrating to be closing out December sans an idea of how things will be much different going forward. Bible Gateway’s search statistics for the year indicated that there was a growing curiosity to understand what God has to say about all of this.
Searches for politics, pestilence, pandemic, and plague might have been surging, but so was a sense of wonder about the Gospel. John 3:16 and Jeremiah 29:11 remained the most popular verses, and the top two search terms (“love” and “peace”) were joined by “hope” as the most-searched terms. People drawing close to God’s Word is the best possible outcome to the troubles of this world, so these stats are heartening.
(article from AXIS)
For WHAT is the Heart Searching?
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “If you want to see America in 10 years, look at
Europe now.” We usually see a more “progressive” future there, especially on issues like gender. Yet the High Court in Britain ruled in favor of Keira Bell, who experienced gender dysphoria as a teen and was rushed into hormone therapy, but now wishes she hadn’t been. The Court’s verdict was that children under 16 are unable to give informed consent to hormone therapy—and that clinics now must seek court authorization before starting such treatment. It’s a step below requiring parent authorization, but it’s a start.
As three prominent doctors reported to the American Supreme Court, “between 80 and 95 percent of children who say that they are transgender naturally come to accept their sex and to enjoy emotional health by late adolescence.” The pressure in the medical field has often been to help clients with gender dysphoria conform bodies to minds instead of minds to bodies—to make the external conform to the internal. As Carl Trueman explains in The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, this development didn’t happen overnight: Rousseau wrote in the 1700s about the absolute authority of the “inner voice,” laying the groundwork for our culture’s preference of internal feelings, even in the face of opposing evidence.
Part of Trump’s legacy will be his crusade against “fake news.” Yet after stirring up so much skepticism about the trustworthiness of major publications, we shouldn’t be surprised when that skepticism starts affecting more than its original targets. When external truth sources are suspect, teens are driven even deeper into a reliance on internal feelings for guidance. So when evangelicals like Eric Metaxas continue to insist that Donald Trump won the 2020 election “in a landslide,” we shouldn’t be surprised when teens believe it’s okay to insist on their own narrative in the face of opposing evidence.
We’re all for investigation of fraud. As Robert Vischer writes, “When the world sees Christians as gullible, naïve and unwilling to do the hard work of critically evaluating information, we lose credibility on everything—including our assertions about the historical veracity of the gospel.” But by the same logic, when the evidence convinces even Bill Barr that the fraud is negligible, our commitment should be to the truth. How we react now always sets a precedent for later. This is a GREAT TOPIC to discuss with your teens, find out what "they think."
(article originally posted on Axis)
Recommended reading for 2021
1. Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado
“I struggle with anxiety and Anxious for Nothing really talks about leaning on Jesus and casting your cares on him.” —Madison, Executive Assistant
2. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
“A skeptic's journey to faith. Donald Miller shares rawly (and humorously) about his ever-deepening understanding of, and relationship with, Jesus. He talks about his frustrations with western Christian culture, what it could mean for the gospel to transform daily life, and about living with unanswered questions and ambiguity.” —Reesey, Writer/Researcher
3. Spiritual Depression by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“This book is a tremendous discussion of the many possible causes of depression and melancholy in the lives of Christians, and different prescriptions for how to handle each one.” —Evan, Director of Content Creation
4. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
“The Circle Maker inspired me to never limit a limitless God. It helped me to pray bold prayers consistently with confidence.” —Chris M., Chief Advancement Officer
5. Colossians: Christ All-Sufficient by Baruch Maoz (a commentary)
“Not all commentaries are highly academic works for pastors. Baruch Maoz’s work on Colossians is a short commentary/study guide on Paul’s letter to a people who longed for a hidden spiritual meaning to life to the detriment of the Gospel message. They longed for a philosophy that ‘had the appearance of wisdom’ (Col 2:23), or an advanced understanding of the faith. Maoz expounds Paul’s exhortation to the Colossians in the all-sufficient provision, person, and work in Christ—a very needful message for today’s Church!” —Patrick, Customer Service Specialist
6. Dangerous Wonder by Michael Yaconelli
“Dangerous Wonder was very formative for me. The thing I took away from it is that we have to take risks because of our faith. Like sometimes God will call us to do things that make no earthly sense but we need to jump first and fear later.” —Toben, VP of Resources
7. Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry
“I don’t think there’s a book I could recommend more than Jackie Hill Perry’s poetic testimony, Gay Girl, Good God. I originally purchased the book to better understand the relationships between the Gospel and the LGBT community, never expecting my male, straight, white self to be so overwhelmingly convicted by the story of God calling and redeeming a gay, black, woman to himself. Am I willing to submit myself to God’s way, or do I try to make God fit into my perspective of the world?” —CJ, Writer/Researcher
8. The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
“This book leaves no doubt about what it means to really follow Jesus. This one deals less with doubt and more about doing some real soul-searching to determine if you are truly committed to the One who called you.” —Preston, Marketing Director
9. How (Not) to Be Secular by James K. A. Smith
“James K. A. Smith summarizes Charles Taylor's 900-page tome, A Secular Age, distilling the Catholic philosopher's wisdom and insight and applying it to postmodern culture. It's an overview of how we got from a religious world (think back to 1500 A.D. when atheism was unthinkable) to the year 2000 when belief is practically unthinkable, at least in the West. Smith explores the themes of doubt, faith, and the philosophical underpinnings that allow for both.” —Reesey, Writer/Researcher
10. Inductive Bible Study by Richard Alan Fuhr and Dr. Andreas J. Köstenberger
“Knowing how to more deeply study God’s Word allows for the text to truly come alive—especially when biblical illiteracy is at an all-time high. When reading the Word, it is important to know how to actually interpret it responsibly. Biblical interpretation is a skill and art that requires a little bit of training but does not require a seminary degree. Fuhr and Köstenberger teach a method of inductive Bible study that leads the reader to properly read various genres, contexts, and motifs, extract biblical truth from God’s Word, and draw applications to shape your life for His glory and to grow your faith.” —Patrick, Customer Service Specialist
11. It Takes a Home byNancy Brummett
“It Takes a Home changed my life 20 years ago. Literally changed every plan I had for myself. It really convicted me of the blessings of motherhood and what a gift it was and what the Bible says about being a mother.” —Kelli, Partner Relationship Manager
12. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
“It may sound unrelated, but Just Do Something was super practical as a college grad. I think it could be great for high school seniors who are freaked out about jobs and life decisions in general, let alone in a year like this. He pushes back against the ‘have faith that God will show you the way to go in life,’ and helps people actually live with faith—by making actual decisions and trusting that they can't do anything to derail what God has planned for their life. Very helpful.” —Chris P., Video Director
13. A Kierkegaard Anthology edited by Robert Bretall
“In college, I spent a lot of time trying to debate my atheist friends into becoming Christians while my own faith remained shallow and hypocritical. Reading Kierkegaard helped me see that being a Christian is about embodying what I believe more than trying to ‘prove’ its validity to others.” —Evan, Director of Content Creation
14. Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren
“We don’t usually look at things like making the bed or losing our keys as ‘spiritual’ practices, but Liturgy of the Ordinary challenged me to discover practical theology and spirituality in the mundane parts of life. Everything we do is holy, and worship is not limited to Sunday mornings. This book opened up a world of understanding of who God is, and how everything I do is an act of worship, as I wake each day as a born again child of God living to serve Him in the simplest acts of my day.” —Hannah, Writer/Editor
15. Making Sense of God by Timothy Keller
“Timothy Keller realizes that Christianity makes incredibly bold, often uncomfortable claims that can be difficult to accept in a secular world. So, instead of comparing Christianity to other religions, or making scientific arguments about the reason for God's existence, Keller goes back to the philosophical claims and assumptions that most modern people have, and asks, ‘Why should anyone believe in Christianity?’ This book is an invitation to skeptics.” —Reesey, Writer/Researcher
16. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“[Mere Christianity] talks about it being a relationship more than just a religion...I love how it was a radio series first and how it argues for the existence of God.” —Madison, Executive Assistant
“[Mere Christianity] was a faith builder in my life.” —Dilynn, Operations Manager
17. Mindset by Carol Dweck
“Not technically a ‘Christian’ book but her concept of the growth mindset has always felt to me like the gospel in disguise. A very encouraging paradigm shift that we can always keep growing, and learning, and developing.” —Evan, Director of Content Creation
18. My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman
“This achingly beautiful memoir explores the tensions between doubt and faith, experience and ideals, pain and beauty, and other paradoxes that seem to categorize life. Christian Wiman was diagnosed with terminal cancer in his late thirties; My Bright Abyss is his attempt to grapple with his condition through poetry and journaling. His rediscovery of Christian faith doesn't remove doubt, and he wrestles with how to live faithfully while acknowledging his painful questions.” —Reesey, Writer/Researcher
19. Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst
“For me, it's a book that brings me back to center. To try and stop focusing on the outcome of small situations and focus on the bigger picture. I think it's definitely a book for those who are going through or have gone through tough situations. But with a year like this one, I would say most people can relate a bit.” —Ashley, Executive Assistant to the Advancement Team
20. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller
“I think of this book as the modern version of CS Lewis' Mere Christianity. It does an incredible job of addressing issues of both the critic looking in on Christianity as well as those who are coming from within a place of faith and yet are struggling with doubts.” —Preston, Marketing Director
21. Reconcilable Differences by Nancy Brummett
“Reconcilable Differences was convicting because I am raising women who don't see things the way I do, and it was helpful in approaching the subject of being a woman of faith and how to deal with feminist issues based on how society ‘thinks,’ and most importantly, how to have conversations about that.” —Kelli, Partner Relationship Manager
22. Rees Howells: Intercessor by Norman Grubb
“The story of Rees Howells is a story of how extraordinarily the Lord will work out His purposes through a willing vessel. Howells was so confident of the Lord’s provision, purposes, and protection, that the man would have marched right off the edge of the Grand Canyon had the Lord asked him to. And he'd have known; his relationship was conversational (moment by moment) with the Lord.” —Chris M., Chief Advancement Officer
23. Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller
“Donald Miller’s unpacking of faith and the Gospel with non-religious language was extremely helpful for me as I shifted from my high-school, cultural faith to my adult faith. A lot have, justifiably, critiqued Miller’s sparse use of scripture, but Searching for God Knows What was the impetus for me to see God, faith, and the Bible with new eyes and to fall back in love with Jesus.” —CJ, Researcher/Editor
24. The Secret Battle of Ideas about God by Jeff Meyers
“This is an interesting one that gives a lot of perspective and answers questions about why pick Christianity.” —Dilynn, Operations Manager
25. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi
“This is a really powerful story of a man who was deeply in love with Islam, but who came to find truth in the God of the Bible. It challenged my thinking, pushed me to look at religion with a more critical eye, and bolstered my confidence in the validity of the Bible.” —Hannah, Writer/Editor