The following is a guest post by Casey McCall, Director of Biblical Counseling at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, KY.
Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (2002)
Paul David Tripp
Tripp’s book is not a new release, and 2014 was not the first year I read it. However, this book is so foundational in my efforts to train leaders within the church that it must be included in any list I make. Tripp’s goal is to take the biblical call to counsel away from the professionals and back the pews. He does this in two primary ways. First, he shows that what we refer to as “counseling” is usually simply what the Bible refers to as person-to-person ministry to “one another.” And secondly, he shows that this type of ministry to “one another” is something that God calls and equips every Christian to do. Tripp’s book is deeply insightful and extremely practical. The latter half of the book provides a practical methodology for interpersonal ministry under the headings love, know, speak, and do. I use this book to train small group leaders, in discipleship, and with anyone interested in becoming better equipped to counsel. I would even say that, in my day-to-day ministry, I consistently use this book more than any other book outside the Bible.
While not necessarily written as a counseling book per se, DeYoung has written a concise, simple, and powerful resource to help Christians increase their confidence in God’s Word. Taking God at His Word is an accessible theology of Scripture for every Christian. I walked away from reading it with a greater confidence in the Bible, and any book that turns readers toward God’s Word with expectation for transformation is a counseling book, in my opinion. DeYoung shows convincingly that there is no book more relevant, more certain, and more hopeful than the Bible. We do not need to look elsewhere for a word from God. He has spoken, and he still speaks through the inerrant words of Holy Scripture.
Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (2013)
In my opinion there is no more pressing issue for the church than the use of pornography within its walls, and there is no better resource in helping people break the bonds of pornography addiction than Lambert’s book. Finally Free is gospel-centered to the max, yet Lambert understands that gospel-centered does not mean passivity. This book is one of the rare resources that works out the practical implications of the gospel without losing the gospel. Lambert understands that only Christ and the grace he provides can break the powerful cycle of pornography. However, he also knows that the gospel shows itself in our lives by leading us to actually doing something about our sin. There should be no disconnect between the gospel of grace and the practical things the gospel calls us to do. Strategies alone will not help you, but strategies grounded in the grace of God in Christ are indispensable.
The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (2011)
Generally speaking, I find just about everything Keller does to be helpful on some level, and this book on marriage is no different. In fact, the first three chapters of The Meaning of Marriage have become required reading for couples in premarital counseling within our church. Keller has a gift for saying things that you may have already been thinking in ways far better than how you could have ever said them. The primary burden of this book is to shift readers’ understanding of love away from the sentimental and back to the gospel. Keller does this in a variety of ways. For example, in the first chapter he reminds us that “you never marry the right person” because “no two people are compatible” (37). Later on, he devotes a whole chapter (chapter 5) to the truth that the person to whom we are married will change—sometimes into a seemingly completely different person—yet we must learn to love even this stranger. I would not recommend this book as the only book to read to understand biblical marriage. I think the book is weak in places, particularly in Keller’s treatment of gender roles. But as a book to help young couples or even struggling marriages to understand love and commitment biblically, The Meaning of Marriage is unmatched.
Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts (1988)
To be completely honest, I forgot how good this book is until I used it this year to help a young man who was dealing with some anxiety issues. Both the young man and I had read this book before, but I decided to use it anyway because, like all of us, I sensed a disconnect between his theology and his daily living. Bridges always seems to bridge that disconnect, and Trusting God did not disappoint. Bridges argues that if God is all-powerful, completely good, and completely wise, he can be trusted. However, if even one of these attributes is missing, he cannot be trusted. Think about it: If he’s all-powerful and all-wise, but not good, what if he uses his power against us? If he’s all-powerful and completely good, but missing wisdom, what if he has power and wants to be good to us, but can’t because he doesn’t know how? If he’s all-good and all-wise, but not all-powerful, he may have the best of intentions but not the ability to use them. Bridges shows convincingly from the Bible that God is indeed all-powerful, all-wise, and completely good. Because of Bridges’ classic book, both of us walked away from these counseling sessions with a greater trust in God.