My Top Books of 2015

I've read some great books this past year. Here are the top ten. Not all of them were published this past year, but they're all ones I've read in 2015 and loved. Here they are, in order, beginning with my favorite.

The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine — There are few books that I read repeatedly. This will be one of them. Eswine understands the temptations that pastors face, and he speaks to them with power and kindness. One of my friends says he's like Eugene Peterson on steroids. I wish I could have read this book when I started my ministry. My Review | Amazon

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller — Everyone I know struggles with his or her prayer life. Miller writes with penetrating honesty about his own struggles with prayer, and how he's learned to pray in the craziness of life. I not only enjoyed this book, but it changed my prayer life. My Review | Amazon

Spurgeon's Sorrows: Realistic Hope For Those Who Suffer From Depression by Zack Eswine — This is the second Eswine book to make the list, and it examines the famous preacher Charles Spurgeon and his struggles with depression. It's helpful not only for those who struggle, but those who want to understand depression. So helpful. My Review | Amazon

Walking Home: The Life and Lessons of a City Builder by Ken Greenberg — Greenberg is an urban designer in Toronto. Walking Home is both the story of his life, and a treatise on what makes cities work. There are many books on cities, but Greenberg's is the most entertaining and informative I've read so far. Amazon

Do More Better: A Personal Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies — Challies gets things done. Reading this short book is like spending an hour with him and learning his secrets. There's nothing complicated in this book, but applying it will have a profound impact on your life. I love its simplicity and practicality. My Review | Amazon

Honest Evangelism: How to Talk About Jesus by Rico Tice — I struggle with evangelism. There's a reason, according to Tice: it's hard. Honest Evangelism helps us understand why it's hard, and helps us understand how we can learn to evangelize using our personality and gifts. It's a clear, practical, and helpful guide for anyone who wants to share the gospel. My Review | Amazon

Unburdened: The Christian Leader's Path to Sexual Integrity by Michael Todd Wilson — Pastors face sexual temptation, just like everyone else. Many struggle in secret, and find their lives and ministries hindered. Wilson speaks honestly to this struggle and provides hope. This is an important read on a topic that's critical for pastors. My Review | Amazon

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when the Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, and Ron McMillan — This book has been on my pile for ages, and I finally got around to reading it this year. It's great for understanding how to talk about tough issues when our response would normally be either silence or violence. It's clear and practical. My Review | Amazon

The Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri Nouwen — It's easy to see fundraising as a task to be endured. Nouwen helps us see that it's not a distraction from ministry; it is ministry. He corrects our wrong assumptions about fundraising, and helps us see it more accurately. If you are a missionary, church planter, or anyone else charged with raising funds for ministry, this book is important for you to read. My Review | Amazon

Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much by Tony Crabbe — I continue to try to get everything done. Crabbe shows us that this is an impossible aspiration. He guides us to stop trying to get it all done, focus on outputs rather than inputs, and approach our tasks with more creativity and playfulness. This book has helped me become more focused on initiating rather than responding in my work. My Review | Amazon

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

The Sexual Integrity of Christian Leaders

Here are seven lessons that stood out to me from the new book Unburdened: The Christian Leader's Path to Sexual Integrity:

Nobody's immune. Don't ask, "Do you struggle with sexual integrity?" Ask, "How do you struggle with sexual integrity?" (p. 12) "None of us are somehow beyond the struggles of any other men in our sex-saturated culture" (p.13). "There’s not a one of us who doesn’t face real challenges to our personal sexual integrity" (p. 20).

Our integrity matters. "Our purpose in the kingdom will only be accomplished to the extent we don’t allow spiritual disease into our life that siphons off our strength" (p.14). "We can’t imagine what God wants to do with our lives if we’re willing to let him use our lives, including our brokenness, for his glory" (p. 120).

Our sexuality is a prime target. "Clearly our gender (male and female) and the union of our genders (our sexuality) is at the very heart of our representation of God’s image. Why, then, should it surprise us that Satan’s number-one target in the twenty-first century is both our gender and our sexuality?" (p. 34)

Sexual temptation is the perfect trap for the Christian leader. "Who else has such privacy, time alone, lack of accountability, a presumption of integrity by others and isolation from close friendships than the typical minister?" (p. 51)

Don't think black and white. Think red (choices to avoid because they're inconsistent with God's design), yellow (slippery slope items), and green (healthy, God-honoring choices) (p. 57). Avoid the red; minimize the yellow; invest in the green.

Disclosure is better than discovery. "While not everyone needs public disclosure, all of us need at least one or two people who know our whole story and can walk alongside us in the road ahead" (p. 18). "As a rule, proactive disclosure before being confronted results in better recovery than telling the whole truth after being confronted" (p. 63).

You can help others. "Once you’re at least ninety days out and feel you’re in a better (not perfect) place of personal application and growth, you’ll be more able to serve as a guide for other men on the path" (pp. 131-132).

Good Hard Theological Reading

Good hard theological reading makes my sermon preparation go faster. I've noticed this for years: two hours spent reading an author like Barth, Forsyth, Edwards or Bonhoeffer on Wednesday saves me hours of sermon preparation on Friday and will produce a deeper, more searching thesis. (David Hansen, The Art of Pastoring)

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In recent years I've launched two ambitious reading projects. One year I read Calvin's Institutes, all 1059 pages, or just three pages a day. Another year I read three volumes of John Frame: The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, The Doctrine of God, and The Doctrine of the Christian Life, for 2456 pages, or 7 pages a day.

It's time to pick another book. I can't decide between Frame's Systematic Theology, his History of Western Philosophy and Theology, or The King and His Beauty by Thomas Schreiner. There are all kinds of other options, and I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Theology books are sometimes more practical than the practical books. It's worth taking a year, reading a few pages at a time, and enjoying the larger tomes. I can't wait to get started on this again.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Top Quotes from Sensing Jesus

If you are a pastor, I can't recommend Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine enough. It gets at the heart of my idolatries, which is why I need to read it regularly. It reminds me of Eugene Peterson's pastoral books, and The Art of Pastoring by David Hansen. This, my friends, is a compliment.

Here are eight of my favorite quotes from Sensing Jesus:

On looking to upgrade our ministries — Therefore, those of you searching for something larger, faster, and more significant, who feel that if you could just be somewhere else doing something else as somebody else, then your life would really matter— Jesus has come to confound you. (p. 40)

On our desire for celebrity and advancement — He alone is the famous one. Jesus values waiting, not haste. His views regarding what it means to advance often have little to do with changing positions, sizes, or geographies. How then do we find strength and joy for the long smallness we often endure and feel? (p. 172)

On our desire for greatness — Our goal of greatness isn’t the problem. How we define the word great is. (p. 37)

On learning our limits and relinquishing our dreams — To relinquish; to admit that some dreams are presumptuous; to acknowledge that some needs outlast me; to recognize my inability to fully supply what is lacking; to admit that I am limited; to say no to competition with brothers and sisters, and to give to others what I strongly desired for myself; and in it all to still take up the pen or give voice to preach Jesus— these indicate a surrender to noble limits. (p. 19)

On the fact we'll be forgotten — God is the remembered one. But this does not mean we are forgotten— not by him. Not by a long shot. In fact, being remembered by him means we no longer fear being forgotten by the world. Living humanly within his remembrance is enough. (p. 19)

On greatness and humanness — Greatness, even in ministry, cannot escape humanity. How did I ever begin to assume that it was supposed to? Being human does not mar greatness; it informs it and sets its noble boundaries. (p. 30)

On feeling out of our depth — We concluded that if we were to say to God, “Father, I constantly feel out of my depth,” God would gently ask, “And why is that a problem?” (p. 36)

On the ways we lead the church — Many of us in ministry and family leadership hastily dynamite our way through obstacles and people. We create well-respected and efficient organizations and homes but leave a trail of persons and places obliterated in our wake. Ironically, we often unnecessarily hurt people in the name of building God’s organization and doing God’s work. (p. 155)

My copy of Sensing Jesus is dog-eared and marked. It's one of those books that I need to read when my motivations for ministry get out of whack. In other words, I need to read it often.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Fourteen Quotes from A Praying Life

Some books are forgettable. A Praying Life by Paul Miller isn’t one of those books. It’s the best book I’ve read on how to pray in the mess of daily life. I highly recommend it.

Here are fourteen quotes from A Praying Life that stood out to me:

Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. Making prayer the center is like making conversation the center of a family mealtime. In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, making us unsure of where to go. Conversation is only the vehicle through which we experience one another. Consequently, prayer is not the center of this book. Getting to know a person, God, is the center. (Kindle Locations 378-382) 

Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart. (Kindle Locations 425-426) 

A needy heart is a praying heart. Dependency is the heartbeat of prayer. (Kindle Location 437) 

The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy. (Kindle Locations 503-504)

Become like a little child—ask, believe, and, yes, even play. When you stop trying to be an adult and get it right, prayer will just flow because God has done something remarkable. He’s given you a new voice. It is his own. God has replaced your badly damaged prayer antenna with a new one—the Spirit. (Kindle Locations 624-627)

You don’t create intimacy; you make room for it. This is true whether you are talking about your spouse, your friend, or God. You need space to be together. Efficiency, multitasking, and busyness all kill intimacy. In short, you can’t get to know God on the fly. (Kindle Locations 694-696) 

If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life. You’ll always be a little too tired, a little too busy. But if, like Jesus, you realize you can’t do life on your own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired you are, you will find the time to pray. (Kindle Locations 729-732) 

You don’t need self-discipline to pray continuously; you just need to be poor in spirit. (Kindle Location 916) 

A praying life isn’t simply a morning prayer time; it is about slipping into prayer at odd hours of the day, not because we are disciplined but because we are in touch with our own poverty of spirit, realizing that we can’t even walk through a mall or our neighborhood without the help of the Spirit of Jesus. (Kindle Locations 969-971) 

Learned desperation is at the heart of a praying life. (Kindle Locations 1555-1556) 

Suffering is God’s gift to make us aware of our contingent existence. It creates an environment where we see the true nature of our existence—dependent on the living God. (Kindle Locations 1676-1677) 

Often when you think everything has gone wrong, it’s just that you’re in the middle of a story. (Kindle Locations 2627-2628)

If Satan’s basic game plan is pride, seeking to draw us into his life of arrogance, then God’s basic game plan is humility, drawing us into the life of his Son. (Kindle Locations 3017-3018) 

Prayer is where I do my best work as a husband, dad, worker, and friend. I’m aware of the weeds of unbelief in me and the struggles in others’ lives. The Holy Spirit puts his finger on issues that only he can solve. I’m actually managing my life through my daily prayer time. I’m shaping my heart, my work, my family—in fact, everything that is dear to me—through prayer in fellowship with my heavenly Father. I’m doing that because I don’t have control over my heart and life or the hearts and lives of those around me. But God does. (Kindle Locations 3269-3273)

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.