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What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (January 2022 through March 2022)

Benton, John. Straightening Out the Self-Centred Church: The Message of Titus. Evangelical Press: Durham, 1997.

As you can tell by the spelling this is a British publication. It is an expository commentary on Paul’s letter to Titus in the Welwyn series. This was also a $5.00 bookstore find and worth every penny. Benton does a remarkable job of portraying the first century situation in Crete and drawing the applications for today’s church. I found the book to be very stimulating and the author’s anecdotes appropriate. It is the gospel alone that destroys our selfishness and produces fruit within our lives. I highly encourage this work for a devotional reading through Titus. You will be blessed.

 

Fields, Wilmer. My Life In The Negro Leagues: An Autobiography. Meckler Publishing:  London, 1992.

I love my used bookstore finds. They are especially wonderful when they are signed by the author (as this was)! I saved this one to read during Black History Month. I don’t mind these emphases because they remind me to learn about other cultures. Wilmer Fields (1922-2004) was a remarkable ball player from Richmond, VA who played for the Homestead Grays in the Negro Leagues. He is a member of the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame as he also played winter ball in Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. He played with the greats like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard. He was offered several Major League contracts when Baseball integrated, but chose to remain in the Negro Leagues and continue to play in the Caribbean because he could make more money for his family. Obviously, Fields was not a writer. But he tells his story well. While he speaks of his hardships enduring racism, he is not bitter. He is appreciative of the opportunities he was given and credits his faith in God as using those difficulties to make him stronger. Records prove he was a lifetime .350+ hitter. But he is more admirable for his strength off the field. This was a very encouraging read.

 

Gregory, the Great. The Book of Pastoral Care. Cluny Media: Providence, RI, 2021.

Gregory (540-604) is considered to be one of the greatest pontiffs in Catholic history (hence his moniker). He came from a prominent family that had already produced three popes before him. But despite his privileged upbringing, Gregory was a humble man. His sincerity and humility come across in his writings. I picked up this ancient tome at the recommendation of David Powlison. I am grateful for the suggestion, because (as usual) the church fathers tend to blow away our misconceptions of what we assume was occurring prior to the reformation. Gregory produced this book to teach men how to be pastors. He begins by describing the pastoral office, then examining the character of those who aspire to be under-shepherds, and then concludes with specifics on how to care for the flock. What comes through his writings is that Gregory knew people - this was a man who had spent long hours understanding human nature through pastoral care and how to apply the gospel. Of course, there are the historical errors on his behalf (he quotes from the apocrypha at times with the same authority as scripture, he will occasionally interpret a text allegorically, and he believed the purpose of marriage was to produce children). Nevertheless, this is an astounding work that can still teach pastors how to care for those for who they will have to give an account.

 

Hill, Megan. Patience: Waiting with Hope- 31 Day Devotionals For Life. P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, 2021.

This is probably the best and most practical devotional from this series to date. I have been reviewing these volumes from the Biblical Counseling Coalition for the past two years. And Hill has accurately captured the need for patience in the Christian life. I used this in the month of December when a theme from my sermons was ‘waiting’ upon the Lord’s return. Hill describes what patience is, why we need it, and how to cultivate it in our daily walk. I highly commend it to you.  It is no wonder it was ranked in the top 10 books of 2021 on The Gospel Coalition’s website. It is worthy of that honor.

 

Judd, Denis. The Lion and the Tiger: The Rise and Fall of the British Raj. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2004.

In my academic studies, I discovered that William Jay was an acquaintance Rammohun Roy (1772-1833). It was then that I developed an interest in understanding the British rule of India, but I never got around to it. That is until I discovered this volume in a used book shop. It was probably the perfect historical account of the period between 1583-1947. It covers Britain’s first contact with India, it’s assimilation into the empire, and extending to the period of India becoming an independent nation. Judd doesn’t pull punches where he sees United Kingdom’s failures in leadership. It was a shame that if the Raj could have overcome its prejudice of the Indian people, one could easily see India as a commonwealth nation benefiting both parties. It is clear the Indians had as much a fascination with British culture as Britain had with India (one thinks of cricket and polo). The one complaint is that many times in Judd’s writings he fails to explain a term and I had to use google to understand what he meant. He assumed his readers would be familiar with the concepts (which is hardly explainable considering this is an introductory overview). Footnotes would have been helpful.

 

Leeman, Jonathan. Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus. Crossway: Wheaton, 2012.

This is a volume within the 9Marks Building Healthy Churches series. I have found these brief books (usually around 140 pages) to be very helpful as an introduction to ecclesiastical topics. I had not read this one before and chose to read it as a refresher on discipline prior to preaching on Matthew 18. The book is laid out very well in three parts. Leeman first lays out the theological foundation for Church discipline. Then he provides a series of case studies from his own experience. And he follows that with helpful tips on how to begin to install discipline in the life of the church. I confess, I did not learn much that was new outside of Leeman’s categories of formative discipline versus corrective discipline. But I would say that this is probably the best overview on the topic available. If you are just beginning to see the need for church discipline, this is a good place to start.

 

Pierre, Jeremy. The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience. New Growth Press: Greensboro, 2016.

The first thing I want to state is that Pierre has provided an understanding for Biblical Counseling that has long been needed. For years counselors have spoken of the proclamation of the scriptures to shape the human heart (cognitive). We also have seen the need on having the heart shape our desires (affective). But most Biblical counselors have neglected the practice of encouraging righteous behavior before a ‘heart change’ (volition). This is understandable because it could lead to a type of legalism. Yet, the scriptures teach it and the research indicates, that such behavior leads to faith in action. And the habitual actions shape our thoughts and affections as put faith into practice. I applaud Pierre’s understanding of this. However, it did take me a while to work my way through this book (several months in fact). The first section as he described the process was exciting, the next two sections about methodology (especially section three) was tedious. I am encouraged about the direction of counseling by reading this book.

 

Raju, Deepak & Jonathan D. Holmes. Rescue Plan: Charting a Course to Restore Prisoners of Pornography. P& R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2021

Rescue Plan is an aid for the counselor/discipler who is working with someone struggling with pornography. This volume is a companion piece to an additional work entitled Rescue Skills. I met one of the authors of the book and asked him to sign my copy of the latter. He instructed me to make sure I read this one first as it is foundational while the other is of a more practical nature. I am glad I took his advice. This book will be extremely helpful to those who counsel porn users. The book begins with a section outlining the dangers of porn and how it changes the mind and heart from the healthy understanding of sex as given by our creator. The second section distinguishes the different ways pornography affects men and women. The books emphasize throughout that porn is also a woman’s issue and not just men. That is a strength that is lacking in other sources. And in the final section, the authors present a case-by-case basis of how to deal with different categories of strugglers: singles, those dating, married couples and children/teenagers. The work is well written and easy to follow. Its arrangement will make it easy for review and consultation when dealing with the different scenarios. The chapter on children and teens is outstanding. I hope the authors might consider publishing as a pamphlet.  If you are someone that disciples others, this book will become a welcome reference. I look forward to reading the companion volume.

 

Spurgeon, Charles. Sermons About Christmas. Hendrickson Publishing: Peabody, 2014.

I finished this the last week of 2021, but not before I published my December review. Every year near advent season, I try to read a resource to stimulate my thinking about Christ’s birth. After all, it is difficult to take up the same topic each December in a fresh way. And here, Spurgeon does not disappoint. This is a collection of eleven sermons on the first advent of Jesus. Each were delivered before Christmas day (except one which was delivered before the preacher’s vacation in France since he would not be present to celebrate the season with his congregation). Each sermon is a treasure trove of delighting in Christ. There are some who claim that Spurgeon ‘hated’ Christmas. These sermons dispute that accusation. Spurgeon despised the Roman Catholic version of Christmas with its mass and holy day of obligation. But he cherished a time to meditate upon the incarnation, even though he would be the first to say that December 25th is an arbitrary date.