As I’ve done for a number of years, I wanted to share with you my favorites from 2018 in a variety of categories: movies, music, books, etc. Except for books, these are all items that were released or took place in 2018. For books, I include my favorite books that I read during 2018, regardless of when the book was published. Enjoy! Please let me know what you think of my list, and also share some of your favorites.
It’s hard to believe that we are at mid-year already. As I have in the past, I wanted to share with you my favorites from the first half of 2018 in a variety of categories. Except for books, these are all items that were released or took place in 2018. For books, I include my favorite books that I’ve read thus far during 2018. Enjoy! Please let me know what you think of my list, and also share some of your favorites.
Best: Tie ~ Black Panther and Paddington 2
Other movies I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, were:
- Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
- Incredibles 2
- Peter Rabbit
- The Post
- I Can Only Imagine
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Isle of Dogs
- Ready Player One
- Ant-Man and The Wasp
Worst: Below are the worst, or at least the most disappointing, films I’ve seen, in no particular order:
- Phantom Thread
- The 15:17 to Paris
- God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness
- First Reformed
Best: Resurrection Letters: Prologue/Resurrection Letters Vol. 1 – Andrew Peterson
Other music I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, were:
- You’re Driving Me Crazy – Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco
- Let the Trap Say Amen – Lecrae and Zaytoven
- Surrounded – Michael W. Smith
- Into the Night – Social Club Misfits
- One More Song – Ashley Cleveland
Best: Is He Worthy? – Andrew Peterson
Other songs I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, have been:
- Take Me to the Water/Cool Down by the Banks of Jordan – Ashley Cleveland
- I Can’t Lose – Lecrae and Zaytoven
- Everyday I Have the Blues – Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco
- The Holy Grail – John Fogerty
- Bridges Burn by NEEDTOBREATHE
- Better Than I Used to Be by Mat Kearney
- Don’t Know by Paul McCartney
Best: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row – Anthony Ray Hinton
Other books I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, were:
- Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 – John Maxwell
- Servant Leadership in Action – Edited by Ken Blanchard
- The Gospel According to God – John MacArthur
- The Gospel Comes with a House Key – Rosaria Butterfield
- How to be a Perfect Christian – Babylon Bee
- How to Get Unstuck – Matt Perman
- Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief – Matt Chandler
- Immanuel Labor: God’s Presence in Our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work – Russell E. Gehrlein
- The Gospel at Work: How the Gospel Gives New Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs(Updated and Expanded Edition) – Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger
- Paul Simon: The Life – Robert Hilburn
- Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock – Gregory Alan Thornbury
- Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization – John Wooden and Steve Jamison
Best: Tim Challies’ Ala Carte. This is required reading for me each Monday through Saturday. Challies includes helpful Kindle deals, links to a good variety of helpful articles and a quote. Check out Tim’s website here.
Best: The Briefing – Albert Mohler. Each weekend morning, Albert Mohler hosts a podcast providing worldview analysis about the leading news headlines and cultural conversations. This is required listening for me. Check out Dr. Mohler’s website here.
Honorable mention goes to the third season of Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent podcast Revisionist History. On each episode, Gladwell goes back and reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.
- The Resident
- This is Us
- The Profit
- The Blacklist
- The Crown
Best: U2 – Experience and Innocence Tour in St. Louis
Honorable Mention: John Hiatt and the Goners, featuring Sonny Landreth. Slow Turning 30th Anniversary Reunion Tour in Bloomington, Illinois
Best: Messages from the 2018 Ligonier National Conference which had the theme “Awakening”.
These are my mid-year favorites in a variety of categories. How about you? What were some of your favorites?
It’s hard to believe that we are at mid-year already. I wanted to share with you some of my favorites from the first half of 2017 in a variety of categories. Except for books, these are all items that were released or took place in 2017. For books, I include my favorite books that I’ve actually read thus far during 2017. Enjoy, and please let me know what you think of my list and share some of your favorites.
Music ~ I enjoy music in a variety of genres. My favorites thus far are:
Albums ~Top Pick: Crooked – Propaganda
Here are the rest of my favorite albums (in no particular order) thus far:
- The Joshua Tree (Super Deluxe) – U2
- Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Deluxe Edition) – Beatles
- Triplicate – Bob Dylan
- The Misadventures of Fern & Marty – Social Club Misfits
- Cinco – Jim Gaffigan
- Flowers in the Dirt (Special Edition) – Paul McCartney
Songs ~ Top pick: Blessings – Lecrae (featuring TY Dollar $ign)
Here are the rest of my favorite songs (in no particular order), thus far:
- Revival – Third Day
- I’ll Find You – Lecrae featuring Tori Kelly
- My Song is Love Unknown – Fernando Ortega
- Your Cross Changes Everything – Matt Redman
- Your Love Defends Me – Matt Maher
Concerts ~ Top Pick: U2’s The Joshua Tree Tour at Soldier Field in Chicago with the Lumineers opening.
Musicals ~ Top Pick: Hamilton in Chicago
Books ~ In this category, while many of the books were published in 2017, I list the best of the books I actually read in 2017. My favorites thus far are:
Top pick: The Legacy of Luther, edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols
Here are the rest of my favorite books (in no particular order), thus far:
- The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teachings – John MacArthur
- Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God – Courtney Reisigg
- Learning to Love the Psalms – Robert Godfrey
- Calling to Christ: Where’s My Place? – Robert Smart
- Discipleship with Monday in Mind: How Churches Across the Country Are Helping Their People Connect Faith and Work – Skye Jethani and Luke Bobo
- Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story – Steven Curtis Chapman
- Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture – Mark Miller
- Workplace Grace – Bill Peel and Walt Larimore
- Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear – Scott Sauls
- Reset – David Murray
- Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
See what I’m reading now.
Movies ~ I usually see at least one movie a week. Here is the best – and the worst – of what I’ve seen thus far:
Top Pick: Hidden Figures
Here are the rest of my favorite movies (in no particular order), thus far:
- Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
- The Case for Christ
- A United Kingdom
- Beauty and the Beast
- Get Out
- Baby Driver
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Unfortunately, there have also been a few poor movies I’ve seen as well. Here are the two worst movies I’ve seen thus far:
- The Resurrection of Gavin Stone
- The Zookeeper’s Wife
Top Pick: The Profit. Season 4 is finally here. If you are not familiar with this show, read more about it here.
Top Pick: Albert Mohler’s The Briefing. Each weekday morning, Albert Mohler hosts a podcast providing worldview analysis about the leading news headlines and cultural conversations. This is required listening for me. Check out Dr. Mohler’s website.
Also, I was happy to hear recently that Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent podcast Revisionist History returning for season two. Listen to the first episode “A Good Walk Spoiled” here.
Top Pick: Tim Challies’ Ala Carte. This is required reading for me each Monday through Saturday. Challies includes helpful Kindle deals, links to a good variety of helpful articles and a quote. Check out Tim’s website.
Another blog that is required reading for me each day is HeadHeartHand from David Murray, author of the excellent new book Reset.
Recommended New Teaching Series
The Lord’s Prayer by Albert Mohler. In this twelve-part series, Dr. Albert Mohler shows that the pattern of prayer Jesus provides is few in words, yet massive in meaning. His prayer reflects true theology and proper doxology—a perfect guide for our own lives. I listened to this series as our book club was studying Tim Keller’s book Prayer.
Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer. See my review of this excellent new documentary.
Dispatches from the Front: The Fourth Man. If you are not familiar with this set of videos from Frontline Missions and Tim Keesee you should be. For more information go here.
Top Pick: Ligonier Ministries National Conference: The Next 500 Years. Watch or listen to all of the messages here.
These are my favorites in a variety of categories. What about you? Please share your favorites.
My wife Tammy and I love to go to the movies. Since we began dating 40 years ago, we’ve usually watched at least one movie a week. We also like to find television shows that we can “binge watch”. But to be honest, most films – that aren’t animated films targeted to children or faith-based – and even television shows (think of a popular show such as House of Cards or Mr. Robot), have some objectionable content or troubling worldview issues. So how can Christians be discerning about the movies or television shows that they watch?
Here are five resources you can use to help you be discerning in this area:
- When checking out the movies that are opening each week or a television show that we’ve heard about, I always start with the Rotten Tomatoes website. This is a very helpful site that will quickly tell you what the critics and viewers like you (referred to as “audience”), think of the quality of the film or television show. They do so by giving the film or show a numeric rating, which indicates what percentage of the critics or viewers gave the film or show a positive review. A rating of 60 or more on their “Tomatometer” is a “Fresh” review, while a rating of less than 60 is a “Rotten” review. Among other things, the site will tell you what the film or show is rated and why. You can also read reviews that are posted by critics and viewers. For example, a good film like Sully received a critic’s rating of 82, while viewers gave the film a score of 89. On the other hand, The Disappointments Room received a critic’s score of 0 and a viewer’s score of 22. That’s enough right there to tell me I probably need to save my money and take a pass on that film.
- The next site I’m going to check is Focus on the Family’s site Plugged In. This site provides a brief overview of the film and then includes helpful analysis about such things as the positive elements, spiritual content, sexual content and violent content of the film, as well as an overall conclusion. This can help you be discerning about a film you may have an interest in seeing. The site also includes analysis of television shows, music, games and books.
- I will often check Ted Baehr’s Movieguide site for content and especially worldview issues of a film. Dr. Baehr’s life’s purpose is to be used of God to redeem the values of the media while educating audiences on how to use discernment in selecting their entertainment.
- If a film is rated PG-13 or R and I have questions about whether or not I want to see it, I’ll often check the Kids in Mind site. This site will give you very specific information in categories such as sex/nudity, violence, profanity and helpful discussion topics from the film.
- To get another perspective on a film I’ll often check out Christianity Today’s Movies and TV site. I have found their reviewers to be less discerning about some films than I would prefer, but they do offer a brief but helpful “Caveat Spectator” section after their analysis of the film.
These are resources that I use to help me be discerning in the movies and television shows I watch. What do you use to guard your eyes and heart?
As I have for the past several years, I want to share with you some of my favorites from 2016 in a variety of categories. These are all items that were released or took place in 2016 except for books; I include my favorite books of the 62 that I’ve actually read during 2016. My top 20 books include three each by Sinclair Ferguson and Tim Keller and two by Bryan Chapell. Enjoy, and please let me know what you think of my list and share some of your favorites.
Favorite Music Album: Never Lose Sight by Chris Tomlin. Here’s my review.
Here are the rest of my top 20 favorite albums, listed in order:
- Where the Light Shines Through – Switchfoot
- Church Clothes 3 – Lecrae
- Keep Me Singing – Van Morrison
- Spirit – Amos Lee
- All at Once – Phil Keaggy
- American Prodigal – Crowder
- The Waiting Room – Trip Lee
- These Christmas Lights – Matt Redman
- Fallen Angels – Bob Dylan
- Facing a Task Unfinished – Keith and Kristyn Getty
- Hard Love – NEEDTOBREATHE
- Wow to the Deadness (EP) – Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil
- This Time Around (EP) – Tedashii
- Blue and Lonesome – Rolling Stones
- Hymns II – Michael W. Smith
- Worship and Believe – Steven Curtis Chapman
- I Still Can – Eric Clapton
- Stranger to Stranger – Paul Simon
- Acoustic Christmas – Neil Diamond
Favorite Song: Yes and Amen by Chris Tomlin
Here are the rest of my top 10 favorite songs, listed in order, along with one bonus song from Trip Lee:
- Running Out of Time – Amos Lee
- My Victory – Crowder
- Jumped Out the Whip – Tedashii
- Float – Switchfoot
- My Worth Is Not In Not In What I Own – Keith and Kristyn Getty with Fernando Ortega
- Testify – NEEDTOBREATHE
- Children Go Where I Send Thee – Neil Diamond with the Blind Boys of Alabama
- I’m Good – Tedashii
- I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine – Eric Clapton
Bonus song: Clouds – Trip Lee
Favorite Artist of the Year: Obviously Chris Tomlin is my top artist for the year. He has my top album – Never Lose Sight – and song “Yes and Amen” and his song “Good Good Father”, though released in October, 2015, still topped 2016’s Billboard’s Christian Digital Songs chart.
As we have the mid-year point, I want to share with you some of my favorites from 2016 in a variety of categories. Except for books, these are all items that were released or took place in 2016. For books, I include my favorite books that I’ve actually read during 2016. Enjoy, and please let me know what you think by clicking on the ‘Comment’ link above.
MUSIC: I enjoy music in a variety of genres. My favorites were:
Top Pick: Church Clothes 3 – Lecrae
Other albums that I’ve enjoyed have been:
Wow to the Deadness (EP) – Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil
Fallen Angels – Bob Dylan
Stranger to Stranger – Paul Simon
Hymns II – Michael W. Smith
Salvation’s Tide is Rising – Passion
Love Riot – Newsboys
Worship and Believe – Steven Curtis Chapman
This Time Around (EP) – Tedashjii
Facing a Task Unfinished – Keith and Kristyn Getty
I’m really looking forward to two July releases – Where the Light Shines Through by Switchfoot and Hard Love by NEEDTOBREATHE .
Top pick: Jumped Out the Whip – Tedashii
Other songs I’ve enjoyed have been:
Float – Switchfoot
My Worth Is Not In Not In What I Own – Keith and Kristyn Getty with Fernando Ortega
Vaporized – Amos Lee
That Old Black Magic – Bob Dylan
It Is What It Is – Lecrae
God and God Alone – Chris Tomlin
I Trust in Christ – Matt Redman
Wow to the Deadness – Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil
Cool Papa Bell – Paul Simon
Down to the River to Pray – Michael W. Smith
I Don’t Know Why (Jesus Loves Me) – Michael W. Smith
White Bikini – Charlie Peacock
Happiness – NEEDTOBREATHE
As we approach mid-year, I wanted to take a quick look back and share some of my favorite music, books, movies and a new podcast.
I enjoy music in a variety of genres. As a result, you will see in my 2015 favorites thus far music in such diverse genres as hip-hop/rap to sacred music. My favorites thus far, in order are:
- Saints and Sinners – Matt Maher
- Before This World – James Taylor
- Glory to the Holy One: Sacred Music for the People of God – Jeff Lippencott and R.C. Sproul
- Shadows in the Night – Bob Dylan
- Tomorrow We Live – KB
- Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship – Third Day
- Duets: Reworking the Catalogue – Van Morrison
- Live from Red Rocks – Amos Lee
- Live from the Woods – NEEDTOBREATHE
- The Wonderlands: Sunlight (EP) – Jon Foreman
- Passion: Even So Come – Various Artists
Albums that I’m aware of being released later this year that I’m looking forward to are:
- Unbroken Praise – Matt Redman (June 16)
- The Wonderlands: Shadows (EP) – Jon Foreman (July 17)
- This is Not a Test – Toby Mac (August 7)
Top choice is “Abide with Me” written and performed by Matt Maher. Matt Redman has also covered the song on his new live worship album Unbroken Praise. Other songs I’ve enjoyed thus far this year, in no particular order are:
- Soul on Fire – Third Day
- Sideways – KB (featuring Lecrae)
- Wonder – Crowder
- Even So Come – Chris Tomlin
- Clothed in Righteousness – Jeff Lippencott and R.C. Sproul
- That Lucky Old Sun – Bob Dylan
- Watchin’ Over Me –James Taylor
- Sweet Pea (live version) – Amos Lee
In this category, while many of the books will have been released in 2015, I list those books I have actually read in 2015. My favorites thus far, in order are:
- Reformation Study Bible (revised and updated edition)
- Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression – Zack Eswine
- A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships – Paul Miller
- Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography- David Platt
- Rising to the Call: Discover the Ultimate Purpose of Your Life – Os Guinness
- John Knox: Fearless Faith – Steven Lawson
- Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work – Tom Nelson
- The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert – Rosaria Butterfield
- The Next Story: Faith, Friends, Family, and the Digital World (revised and updated edition) – Tim Challies
- Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story – Trip Lee
- The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do – Jeff Goins
- Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty – Bengie Molina
- Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game – Mark Miller
- The New One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
- The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption – Matt Chandler
See what I’m reading now.
We love going to the movies, but frankly it’s been a very disappointing year so far. My favorites thus far, in order are:
- Avengers: The Age of Ultron
- McFarland USA
- Woman in Gold
- The Drop Box
- Far From the Madding Crowd
Over the past few years Eric Metaxas has become one of my favorite authors. I was excited to hear about his radio show and even more excited when it became available in podcast.