Merry Christmas 2020

Merry Christmas, from the MPBCLife pastors & staff!

25 Books Every Christian Should Read

After preaching on Ecclesiastes 2 a few weeks ago, I had a few people ask me about what books I quoted from. Due to some good conversations over supplemental reading, I decided to write on 25 Books Every Christian Should Read.

First, please know that the heart of all the pastors at Mount Pleasant is for you to know, study and love the word of God above any other book. With that said, we do believe that the Lord can use supplemental reading to help challenge and edify us. Also, this is not an exhaustive list, knowing there are so many great writings that the Lord has used over the years. Even coming up with these 25, I consulted with our pastoral staff [and others] to see if there were any they would add to this list, because I desired to have recommendations from all sorts of writers.

It’s my prayer that all believers would challenge themselves in reading both the Scriptures and other readings that help us better understand the Christian life and proper theology. If you ever need help finding a book on a particular subject, please do not hesitate to contact any of our pastoral staff members.


With all of that said, here’s a list of 25 books that every believer should read:

Desiring God has been one of the most influential books for me in my theology, ministry and walk with Christ. This book will help you better understand that our satisfaction and longing should be in one thing: God. In a world where happiness can be found in so many external things, Piper draws us toward the passions of God. John MacArthur says of Desiring God, “a must read for every Christian, and a feast for the spiritually hungry.” If you truly are wanting to learn more from Scripture how your desires can be the same as God’s, then I strongly recommend this book.

Do you have a desire to know more about God and His nature? If so, I believe Knowing God will be a timeless piece of literature with how clearly it explains who God is. JI Packer is one of greatest theologians of the 20th Century [and beyond] due to his clearly articulating the truth of God, so readers and listeners understand more about how awesome their God is. RC Sproul even says, “Knowing God is a masterpiece by a master theologian. It serves as a wake-up call for those who are asleep to the majesty of God.” This book can challenge and edify any Christian at any stage of their walk with the Lord.

I’ve often said that Mere Christianity should be on the bookshelves of every believer because you never know when it could be used as an evangelism resource with an unbeliever. It’s an easy read and can show how someone can move from skepticism to true belief in Jesus Christ. Lewis explains the foundation of our faith while in the middle of living during WW2. Because this book is structured in such a way that it takes CS Lewis’ broadcasts and puts them into a book that defends the faith, it is a great resource to walk through with a non-believer.

Tim Keller is one of the strongest Christian voices and apologists of our current day. The Prodigal God, similar to Mere Christianity, has become a great resource to point non-believers to. Why? Tim Keller does an excellent job allowing us to self-examine our belief of the story of the Prodigal Son, allowing us to see a clearer picture of the Prodigal God. Mark Dever adds, “This brief exposition is unsettling and surprisingly satisfying. Like seeing something as your own home, or your own self, with new eyes.”

Worship Matters is a great resource to understand why everything we do as believers matters because it’s all about worship. As Bob Kauflin discusses a difficult topic in our American churches, he explains that what we teach about worship and how we lead in worship can be just as damaging to our faith as helpful. If our worship isn’t based on revealing the nature of God, then it fuels the fire that worship is merely about self. Worship leaders, pastors, and every church member should read this book to help guide us in our worship. DA Carson even says, “Bob Kauflin is teaching a new generation to take corporate worship seriously in a fashion that is simultaneously biblically founded and addressing today’s culture.” This book has been a “go to” for me anytime I’m trying to get a little deeper into the conversation of worship.

I’m not sure there’s a theologian in our previous generation that I could listen to speak, read their books or hear them preach as consistently as I could RC Sproul. The clarity with which he writes/speaks, including a depth in the knowledge of God, is extremely rare. In The Holiness of God, RC Sproul writes about how we should view our living God. Topics many Christian writers avoid, Sproul hits head on with fervency and vibrancy. The first time I read this book, I could not put it down because it left me always wanting more. Jerry Bridges says, “Every Christian who is serious about his or her growth needs to read The Holiness of God. I profited greatly from this book.” Agreeing with Bridges, this is a must for all believers.

This short book, along with Knowing God and The Holiness of God, is a great book that explains thoroughly about the character of God. These biblical precepts in understanding our Creator allows us to not only know Him at a surface level, but know Him at a foundational level that changes everything about your view of God. You’ll be encouraged by the depth and simplicity with which Pink writes, and you should walk away feeling you’re changed by knowing God.

There are several John MacArthur books that could be added to this list as he has written a number of marvelous books. The Gospel According to Jesus has become one of my favorite books due to the way it clearly articulates the gospel. Too many “church goers” in American Christianity really do not know what it means to be saved. John MacArthur urges us that Christian faith is much more than a one-time decision. If there’s not fruit from the decision someone has made, are they truly a believer? This “easy believes” has crept into our churches, and John MacArthur clearly explains that that’s no gospel at all. Jesus must not only be our Savior, but He must also be our Lord. To learn more about this topic, I believe The Gospel According to Jesus will help.

I first read Experiencing God and did the study when I was a teenager, and it really opened my eyes to truly trusting in the will that God had for my life. I’ve heard from countless numbers of people how this book has been the most influential book in their Christian walk, outside of Scripture. As you go through this book [and study] as a student of God’s word, you’ll be challenged not to have a surface level relationship with Christ, but one that truly does depend on Him fully. Although this study has been around for a long time, the truths taught in this book continue to help believers who are struggling to grow in their faith.

Shortly after arriving at Mount Pleasant, Pastor Joey had recommended this book on Prayer to the pastoral staff and other leaders in the church. And let me tell you … this has been the best book on prayer that I have read. After walking through some historical aspects on prayer, Tim Keller really does a great job at challenging believers in their personal prayer life. Believers want to make their prayer life more personal and powerful, and not redundant. Keller helps establish a practice that will help you feel more connected with the Lord through your prayer life. Allow the Lord to use this book to strengthen your prayer life.

The Christian life is not meant to be easy, but rather it’s a difficult journey at times. The Pilgrim’s Progress is a fictional book that really gives a great representation of both the joy and struggles of a Christian life. Learning to leave sin behind, the main character turns to Jesus and desires to follow Jesus daily. You’ll leave this book desiring to be faithful to the Lord in all things.

Today’s church often has a misunderstanding of what true discipleship and living for Jesus looks like. In this book we see how there’s a cost to following Jesus in how we live our humanity and civic duty. Along the way, we may have people disagree with how we live because it’s not about comfort, but rather sacrifice. If anyone understands the true sacrifice in following Jesus, it’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer who left the comforts of America to return to Germany to push back against the Nazi regime and Hitler. In my personal opinion, there’s not a greater resource [outside of Scripture] that explains more clearly the true sacrifice of following Jesus.

I had the privilege of reading Spiritual Disciplines my first semester of Seminary with Donald Whitney as my professor. More than any other supplemental resources, this book has helped me clearly understand spiritual disciplines. This book will help guide you through many different disciplines; some that you may not have known were even a command from scripture. I truly believe this will help you grow in your faith and living out the gospel. Alongside of reading this, there’s a great workbook that I strongly recommend going through.

Written in the 4th & 5th Century, this could possibly be a little more difficult of a read than others. Even though it may be a little more difficult, I believe translators have done a good job at clearly interpreting it. Also, don’t not read a book due to it being a little more difficult of a read, because that’s what we do sometimes with Scripture, and we should be challenged to read difficult texts. In Confessions we see an individual who struggles with surrendering over to Jesus, but when he does, it changes everything for him. This classic has helped me get a clearer picture of redemption and turning away from sin. If you truly take time to read and understand this journey of Augustine of Hippo, you’ll be thankful for the foundation he set for others in years to follow.

Evangelism has often become about us convincing someone of a decision they must make. If we truly believe in a sovereign God, we then realize we don’t need to convince people of salvation but rather share the gospel and allow the Lord to do the work. JI Packer explains what faithful evangelism looks like while depending on the Father [and not self] to see the change in someone’s life. This doesn’t change whether we do evangelism, but it allows the evangelist to just be faithful and depend on God. If you’re truly looking for a resource to challenge you in your evangelism, I would highly recommend Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.

The Insanity of God tells a story of a missionary couple who discovered that missions may not always be easy and glamorous, but totally worth it. They go through some of the most remarkable struggles you’ll hear of, but in the end see God’s blessing and growth even from the difficult days. This will rip apart the heart of westernized Christianity and their mission causes. If you’re looking for a story to challenge you about your faithfulness in missions, please read this book. You will not be able to put it down without weeping out to the Lord for forgiveness due to a lack of faith. Danny Aiken said of this book, “It completely and utterly wrecked me. Half the time I found myself sitting in heartbreaking silence on the verge of tears, and the other half I found myself wanting to shout and dance over some of the stories.” You’ll affirm God’s faithfulness and goodness throughout the pages of this book.

What truly captures your heart? What leads you in what you do, say, and how you live? Is it the being in awe of God or the things of this world? Paul David Tripp in his book Awe pushes believers that their life should be seen in what they’re gazing upon, and if it’s not God, then we’re missing the mark. This book is an easy read but will take you to depth of finding your complete satisfaction and joy in the Lord. Craig Groeschel says, “If you will read this book with a hungry and humble heart, God will use it to deepen your passion for Christ as you rediscover just who God is and why we’re invited to revel in his awesome glory.” You should not be disappointed by this book.

If I could go back in time and listen to any preacher [outside of those in the bible] live, I would choose the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon. In his teachings, preaching, and writings he clearly articulates the gospel. More than any other pastor in the last few hundred years, Spurgeon was dedicated to making disciples of all nations. In this book, you’ll find a masterpiece of teachings that he taught to those whom he was discipling. These lectures are rich, inspiring, and challenging. I read this while in seminary and often point leaders and teachers in the church to this resource.

I’ve had the privilege of leading 4 different groups through this book. In Crazy Love, Francis Chan challenges how believers live in response to the love that God has for us. When people see the early church, and live it out, it looks crazy. Every time I read this book it challenges me to think through how I’m effectively living out the gospel. Am I just comfortable with going through the routine or truly sacrificing for the good of those around me? If you read this be prepared to make some life changes on how you live for the glory of the Lord. Joni Eareckson Tada adds “In Crazy Love, Francis peels back what we think the Christian life is and guides us down the path toward an uncommon intimacy with Jesus-an intimacy which can’t help but change the world around us!”

In 2003, John Piper spoke to 50,000 college students preaching a message entitled Don’t Waste Your Life. That sermon can also be seen in this book format, explaining that we shouldn’t be teaching our children and young people to chase after the “American Dream.” We must stop wasting our lives on things that don’t matter for eternity and start focusing our passion on living for Christ and His glory. This book truly was an influential one early in my ministry, because it challenges me not to go after success like I’ve heard for so long. There’s no doubt that if you’re a Christian, this book could help steer your heart toward the Lord.

One of the hardest concepts to understand is God’s grace. The idea of understanding the grace of God is there is nothing that can separate you from God if you’re truly born-again. Max Lucado eloquently answers some of these difficult questions and doctrines in his book In the Grip of Grace. Many of these answers to life will often push us to try harder, while Lucado describes a grace that self-propels you. If you’re looking for a light but compelling read on the grace of our Lord that will deepen your understanding of His grace, you’ll want to pick this book up quickly.

We often must be reminded that everyone believes something about God. In believing something about God, you’re a theologian. Although the word “theologian” can be an intimidating word, we all must recognize that we all are theologians – good or bad. In his book Everyone’s A Theologian, RC Sproul sets up believers to have a good foundation while moving into the topic of systematic theology. Sproul gives us a launching pad into the world of Systematic Theology, which we should embrace, not run away from.

We have seen a plethora of books written on what type of church you are or what it means to be a church, but few on what it looks like to be a church member. By far, What is a Healthy Church Member is the best book I have seen or read on the responsibility and role as a church member. Far too often the church is comprised up of members who feel as if the pastors/elders and deacons should do all the work. Thabiti Anyabwile explains biblically what the Bible instructs members of the church. I would love if we got to a point where every member of Mount Pleasant was given a copy of this when joining our church. John MacArthur says of this book, “In an era when Christians seem confused about what kind of community the church ought to be, here’s a helpful handbook outlining the church’s true biblical priorities, especially as they apply to individual church members.”

Kevin DeYoung has become one of my favorite writers in recent years due to clarity and sense of humor. In this short book we’re challenged by asking if our lives truly show we believe the word of God. It’s easy to say we believe in Jesus, His word, and His teachings, but often our lives don’t display that. This book will help you understand what the Bible says about itself and encourage you to read, believe, and live what it truly says. David Platt says, “My trust in God’s Word is greater, my submission to God’s Word is deeper, and my love for God’s Word is sweeter as a result of reading this book.” That’s what I hope you will find by reading this book.

All believers probably have a desire to know more about Heaven. In this book, Randy Alcorn answers questions about Heaven you have both thought and not thought about. This book will help us not create a vision of heaven that comes from Hollywood, but one that is with real people and real bodies that we see in the pages of Scripture. If you have a desire to know more about the doctrine of Heaven, here’s a great resource for you to start with. Joni Eareckson Tada says, “Randy does an awesome job of answering people’s toughest questions about what lies on the other side of death.”


25 Other Books that Could’ve Made This List:


  • The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down (Albert Mohler)
  • The Knowledge of the Holy (AW Tozer)
  • Ashamed of the Gospel (John MacArthur)
  • Seeing with New Eyes (David Powlison)
  • Divided We Fall (Luder Whitlock Jr)
  • Christ & Culture (DA Carson)
  • For the Love of God (DA Carson)
  • Gospel (JD Greear)
  • Worship by the Book (DA Carson)
  • The Reason for God (Tim Keller)
  • Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering (Tim Keller)
  • Christ In the Passover (Ceil & Rosen Moishe)
  • Way of the Master (Ray Comfort & Kirk Cameron)
  • Explicit Gospel (Matt Chandler)
  • Radical (David Platt)
  • What is Reformed Theology (RC Sproul)
  • The Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe (CS Lewis)
  • The Holy Spirit (Sinclair Ferguson)
  • The Whole Christ (Sinclair Ferguson)
  • Onward (Russell Moore)
  • The Case for Christ (Lee Strobel)
  • Authority (Martin Lloyd-Jones)
  • How the Gospel Brings Us All The Way Home (Derek Thomas)
  • Does God Care How We Worship? (Ligon Duncan)
  • A Quest for Godliness (JI Packer)

What are other resources (and recommendations) Christian should have?

  • Study Bible
    • ESV Study Bible
    • John MacArthur Study Bible
    • Reformation Study Bible
  • Commentary
    • John MacArthur Commentary
    • Christ-centered Exposition
    • Andrew’s Expositional Commentary
  • Concordance
    • Strong’s Concordance
  • Systematic Theology Books
    • Systematic Theology (Wayne Grudem)
    • Christian Theology (Millard Erickson)
    • Theology for the Church (Danny Akin)
    • Systematic Theology (Robert Culver)
  • Biblical Theology Books
    • Biblical Theology (Michael Lawrence)
    • Biblical Theology (Roark & Cline)
    • God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment (James Hamilton)
    • Life’s Big Questions (Vaughn Roberts)
    • Old Testament (Mark Dever)
    • New Testament (Mark Dever)
  • Hermeneutics: Understanding Studying the Bible
    • Getting The Message (Daniel Doriani)
    • According to Plan (Graham Goldsworthy)
    • CrossTalk (Michael Emlet)
    • Gospel Centered Hermeneutics (Graham Goldsworthy)
    • How to Read the Bible Book by Book (Fee Stuart)
  • Church History
    • Documents of the Christian Church (Bettenson & Maunder)
    • Church History (Woodbridge & James)
    • The Story of Christianity (Gonzalez)
  • Cults
    • The Kingdom of Cults (Walter Martin)
  • Devotions
    • Utmost for His Highest (AW Tozer)
    • 365 Days with Spurgeon (Charles Spurgeon)
    • Daily Reflections from the Life of Christ (John MacArthur)

10 Things Pastors Feel

Our world and nation have been on a roller coaster ride the past few weeks. The future seems so uncertain and many of us have a wide range of emotions and thoughts. This pandemic has affected people differently: job losses, health scares, loss of a loved one or acquaintance, or simply the fear of the unknown. As a pastor, this pandemic has reminded me that we are merely humans. We have our gifts and our flaws, but none of us are exempt from feeling a wide range of emotions. With that, I want to think about 10 Things Pastors Feel:

1. We feel loved.
Neither I nor our pastoral staff can speak for every church, but our church at Mount Pleasant has loved us and loved us well. When Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that “Love never ends,” he is describing the type of love that Jesus has for His church. Our church family has displayed that same type of love toward our pastoral staff, and we feel it. From food being dropped off to encouraging notes, nothing surpasses the prayer that has been felt during this time. Thank you for loving us in such a special way.

2. We feel pressure
There’s no doubt that we feel pressure on every decision that is made right now. That pressure comes with the office of overseer/elder/pastor that is described in 1 Timothy 3. Part of the qualification described is to desire a noble task (1 Tim 3:1). The noble task during this time is to lead faithfully despite the pressure we may feel from multiple angles. Never in Scripture were we guaranteed to lead easy tasks without any pressure. Actually, when you look at the gospel and our mission, we should consistently feel pressure as we faithfully live out the gospel.

3. We feel empowered Before Jesus’ ascension He said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit walks through everything with us, but there are certain times we feel His presence stronger. There is no doubt we have felt the Holy Spirit walking with us and empowering us to continue to follow after the Lord.

4.We feel vulnerable In the midst of proclaiming the gospel, the Apostle Paul tells the church of Corinth, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1 Cor 2:3-5). If we’re honest, most of us during this time have felt vulnerable or weak. That says nothing about our faith and it’s okay to feel this way. Feeling vulnerable helps us to be reminded of our need for the Lord daily.

5.We feel innovative During this time, pastors have had to learn to be innovative with how ministry is done. Pastors have said, “Although ministry looks different, it continues.” That is true, it has and will continue. Bible studies through video conferencing, singing at nursing homes from the parking lot, and being more up-to-date on technology are just a few ways we’re moving forward. We may not innovative, but we sure feel more innovative than ever before.

6.We feel unknowing. We truly do not know enough about this virus. Our opinions and thoughts change drastically about the virus as we hear from medical professionals. Our lack of knowledge about this wicked virus sometimes feels like we are uncertain of the future, but there are things we do know. We know that this virus is a direct result of what took place in Genesis 3. The fall of man led to sickness and death, so although we feel unknowing about certain things, we must find our hope in the things we do know.

7. We feel hope Our hope must not be in fragile things of this world, but in the One who was raised from the dead. We feel hope because the Lord can use these times to draw people closer to Him. We feel hope because we know the Lord is not done yet and can use even the darkest of times to bring glory to His name. Looking at the life of Job, we can recognize that in the midst of his agony, he had a sense of hope. Our prayer is that of Paul’s, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,” (2 Thess 2:16). May His love give all of us the hope we need during these difficult days.

8. We feel weight There will always be weight when you’re a shepherd. The weight now is the desire to be with the sheep, wanting to be sure the sheep are protected and ensuring the sheep are being fed. The reason we as shepherds feel a weight has not changed, but the heaviness of the weight has changed due to these unforeseen circumstances. Although we feel the weight, our hope of coming back together is so much stronger. This is only a temporary weight that, with the Lord’s help, we will get through.

9. We feel shepherded Just as we strive to shepherd, we ourselves feel shepherded. When the author of Hebrews is encouraging us to keep our hope in the Lord he quotes Jesus saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5). Jesus hasn’t, nor will He, forget about us. Jesus is the ultimate Shepherd who continues to lead, guide and protect us because He laid His life down for us (John 10). As we shepherd during these difficult days, the Lord continues to shepherd us. We are forever grateful that Jesus has given us a perfect example of what a Shepherd does.

10. We feel emotional. Seeing empty pews, canceling activities and mission trips, and simply not seeing faces has made us emotional. As with some of you, tears continue to flow as we miss our people and fellowship. Our congregation has continued to be on our minds, and it’s brought a different type of emotion to us as pastors. With that said, we long for the type of emotion it will bring the day we’re able to get back together. We long for those tears on that day. We long for those emotions and eagerly await the time we’re back together.

Although we feel a wide range of emotions, may we continue to be reminded that this is not about us, you, or any particular person. This is about, during a time of crisis, turning and fixing our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2). It’s about proclaiming the goodness of Jesus in the midst of chaos. It’s about speaking to others about the reality of hell and eternity. May all the emotions and feelings any of us are going through strengthen our hearts in lives in line with the mission God has called us to.

Pastor Joe Mayes
Administrative & Missions Pastor

3 Questions to Ask Your Spouse Every Night

I was recently reading a post from a pastor friend of mine. He was talking about 3 questions he and his wife ask each other every night before going to bed. Heather and I have started doing this and then we pray together when we finish. It’s a great ending to the night and I encourage you and your spouse to give it a try.


The 3,2,1…


  1. Name three things you’re thankful for


God has blessed us so much. Take some time as a couple to talk about a few ways how God has blessed you. Psalm 106:1 says, “Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”


  1. Name two ways that you would like your spouse to pray for you


I don’t know about you, but I love having a spouse who prays for me. It is such an encouragement to know that my wife is going to the Father for me. As I go through the next day, I am reminded to pray for her in these ways. Not only that, but it leads to some good discussion.


  1. Name one thing your spouse did that made you feel appreciated


Personally, this helps me be more intentional to show my appreciation for my wife. Life is so busy and the days can easily get away from us. But the fact is that our spouses are a blessing and a treasure to us, so they should feel our appreciation for them.


I hope that you and your spouse will try doing this together. I am sure that it will lead to some healthy conversations and be a time that you really enjoy together. Whether you do this or not, I pray that you take time to invest in your marriage. Even something as simple as praying together every night will have a powerful impact on your relationship. And, remember, your children desperately need parents who are constantly working on their marriage. Not only for your benefit, but also for theirs.


For His Glory,

Pastor Garrett Oppel

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