Top 5 Books of 2020

I recently posted on my social media platforms that I read 83 books in 2020.  My original goal was to read 52 books in 365 days of 2020, but stay at home orders allowed me to exceed that goal. 

Mark Batterson said, “Each book represents about 25 years of life experience in one book.” I figured at this point in my life as a follower of Jesus, husband, dad and pastor, I needed as much life experience I could get.

So here are my top 5 books I read in 2020.  They aren’t in any particular order.

  • The Relentless Pursuits of Eliminating Hurry by John Mark Comer

We are all busy. We are in the rat race.  Churches are even more active than ever, but should we be this busy?  

There are so many things to get done.  We struggle to conquer our list of “to dos” let alone complete it. 

As a pastor, it feels like we have to do all the things. We use the mission of the church as an excuse for why we are always in a hurry. It is possible to be successful as a pastor and fail at following Jesus. 

We’ve somehow made the idea of being a pastor exempt from following Jesus’ example of not hurrying. 

I would hate to pastor a church and lose my soul, family or burn out because I chose to be a good pastor over following Jesus.  It’s possible, by the way.  In the back of my mind, I knew that.  It wasn’t until I started to read this book and hear another pastor voice that possibility, that I decided to change. 

There is a way out.  First, we have to recognize that hurry and love can’t co-exist.  According to John Comer, hurry and love are incompatible. 

Can we change?  Could I change?  Could I resist the urge to become a great pastor at the cost of following Jesus?  Jesus was never in a hurry.  Jesus slowed down to pay attention to people.  Jesus rested.  Jesus took a Sabbath.  To sabbath means to stop or seize. 

It was like this at the beginning of time.  Sometimes I wonder if humans forgot how our story started.  God created humans on the 6th day.  The 7th day came around and Adam and Eve rested. They spent the Sabbath day with God.  Were Adam and Eve tired?  Was God tired?  No.  Humanity started out by being created then taking a Sabbath with their creator.  On day three of humanity’s existence, Adam and Eve got to work. 

What if we patterned our lives like this?  I grew up thinking we had to earn rest.  We had to get everything done so we could spend the Sabbath day resting.  We’ll never get all the things done.  There will always be more to do. 

What if we patterned our lives around the idea that we work from our rest.  We rest, and out of the source of life-giving rest, we have the energy to work? 

Could that be a way forward?  

2. Letters to a Young Pastor by Eugene Peterson

My family and I planted RE.THINK Church in 2017.  We are a 4-year-old church in Merrillville, IN.  I struggle to say that I pastor our church.  I’m more comfortable with the idea of I lead the church.  

In our current church culture, it’s more flashy to say that I’m a leader.  We’ve made an idol out of leadership. 

To be honest, I have worshiped the idol of leadership. 

I picked this book up on whim.  As I read these letters between a father and a son, it felt like God was confronting my worship of leadership. 

I confess my sins of worshiping at the wrong altar.  

My prayer and hope is to pastor our community better not to lead our community. 

3. Discipleship Kickstart Toolkit by Doug Paul

Jesus left this earth with clear instructions of what to do, go make disciples.  He didn’t explain how to do that.  He made disciples. Those disciples made disciples (not of themselves, but of Jesus). Those disciples made disciples and so it has gone for 2,000+ years. 

To Jesus, there is no Plan B. 

We are His plan A. 

As we make disciples of Jesus, we are partnering with Jesus in the advancement of His kingdom.

Doug explains the tension created as we follow Jesus.

Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t just about knowing the right answers or having a good character, it’s also about living and doing.  Jesus taught in parables. The characters of the parables were always doing something.  Characters in his parables are either advancing the Kingdom or interacting with other people.  The point of most of these parables wasn’t so we would have information to pass a test.  It was so we would know how to live in His kingdom.

Following Jesus is about becoming more like Jesus for the reason of becoming more like Jesus.  It’s also about doing what Jesus did for the sake of becoming more like Jesus. 

4. The Lost Letters of Pergamum by Bruce Longenecker

In Revelation 2:13, Jesus says, “I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.”

Longenecker takes a look into the cultural and historical context to speculate into what events might have led up to this moment for Jesus to mention Antipas. Was Antipas the only Christian martyr up to this moment?  No, but something must have taken place to grasp Jesus’ attention and make mention of him to John at this moment.

‘The place where Satan has his throne’ describes what kind of city and culture Pergamum was in the 1st century.

Pergamum was a city dedicated to the advancement of the political and military promotion of Rome’s Empire.  Pergamum was full of Emperor worship, gladiator games and worship of mythical deities.

All this led up to the qualification to be called the place where Satan has his throne. 

German, American and Turkey archeologists spent two decades excavating the city of Pergamum.  The team of archeologists discovered lead casements in a house. 

Pitch and wax preserved the contents inside the lead casements.  What were the contents? Letters between a man named Antipas and another man named Luke. 

These letters tell the story of Antipas’ faith and how the followers of Jesus in Pergamum and the surrounding areas influenced Antipas. The document describes the faith journey Antipas embarks on as his life intersects with followers of Jesus.

It’s so moving to see how living our faith out in real genuine everyday life can influence others.  

I wept reading the last few pages.  I could barely share them with my wife.  

5. Legacy Journey by Dave Ramsey

The day I’m writing this, I turned 40 years old.  My wife and I celebrated 18 years of marriage this past summer.  Our oldest son is a senior in high school and our youngest son is a freshman in high school. 

Growing up, I vividly remember the thought of wanting to be a father, but that thought scared me!  More like terrified me. 

I remember the night that Heather took a pregnancy test. We didn’t think we needed to, especially since it had only been a few weeks after returning from our honeymoon. 

Yep, that ‘five year plan for kids’ thing went right out the window in a matter of weeks.  I felt excited (Heather not so much) and terrified all at once. 

Legacy Journey is not just a financial book.  It’s a book with a radical Biblical view of money and generosity.  Dave explains that wealth and money aren’t good or evil.  Money is just an object.  How we interact with money is what matters.  The love of money according to scripture is the root of all evil.  When we are generous, we acknowledge that God owns it all.  We are simply stewarding what He’s given us. I want to leave our sons, and the future Ulrich generations, with a legacy.

The legacy Heather and I want to leave our sons isn’t focused on money or wealth.  Our legacy we are leaving points the future Ulrich’s to love Jesus and loving others.  We want our wealth to benefit others around us for generations to come. The Legacy Journey has given me a road map to accomplish that. 

Photo by: Eli-Francis

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