What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (July 2022 through August 2022)
Boothe, Charles Octavius. Plain Theology for Plain People. Lexham Press, Bellingham,
Charles Octavius Boothe (1845-1924) was the founding pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama (later renamed King Memorial Baptist after Martin Luther King, Jr.). He created this theological primer to meet the needs of the people sitting in his pews, from the businessman to the sharecropper. And he has accomplished his job very well. It is basic theology contained in 150 pages that cover such topics as the Trinity, the Bible, Soteriology, and Last Things. Admittedly, at times, it can read more like lecture notes than prose. But Boothe provides sufficient scriptural proof for his positions. The book does suffer from two weaknesses. Boothe did not promote a plurality of elders (despite appropriating some of those scriptural proofs). And he avoids the topic of eternal punishment. Many theologians of the nineteenth century questioned both the reality of hell and if it did exist, whether or not God would have required punishment to be eternal. Boothe seems to avoid the latter but states unequivocally that there is a hell and one receives God’s wrath for not believing in the Son. As a historical work, it will certainly correct any prejudice that African American preachers did not have a healthy and robust theology. For this reason alone, the work is commendable.
Brotherton, Marcus. Blaze of Light: The Inspiring True Story of Green Beret Medic, Gary Beikirch, Medal of Honor Recipient. Waterbrook: 2020.
This may be my favorite book of the year. I typically read an American military book near Memorial Day. I began this one in May, and due to a busy schedule had put it down until I could do more reflective reading. As the title suggests, Gary Beikirch earned a Medal of Honor at the siege of Dak Seang, during the Vietnam War. The story is told from his perspective of how he loved the people group he was sent to protect. Then they were attacked by the North Vietnamese Army and Biekrich did everything he could to save his compatriots and allies. The story proceeds with him returning home and learning to adjust to a country that did not welcome him back. Like most soldiers, he suffered from PTSD. But the beauty of the book is how Beikrich found Jesus (or better put how Jesus called Biekrich). Beikrich is now the chaplain for the Medal of Honor Society. I am so glad that he chose to employ the services of a professional writer to help him tell his story. The book is well-crafted. At several points, I was moved and brought to tears. This is truly an inspiring story. I have already purchased a copy for a young army medic I know. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Please be aware, the descriptions and language can be graphic at times as it recounts real events for the sake of accuracy, which is warranted.
DeMars, Sean & Mike McKinley. Health, Wealth and the (Real) Gospel: The Prosperity Gospel Meets the Truth of Scripture. Christian Focus: Fearn, 2022.
So full disclosure: I am a friend of one of the authors of this book. But I don’t think that will influence my review. DeMars and McKinley have produced an appropriate primer on the dangers of the prosperity gospel (which is no gospel at all). The book is designed to be a quick introduction to make individuals aware of the influence of this pervasive movement. Is it the best book on the subject? Probably not. But it is accessible to the lay-reader. DeMars’ personal examples from when he believed the prosperity gospel are particularly helpful. At times the humor can be a little forced and off-putting, but currently, there is no better primer on the subject. If you have a friend or family member that believes God wants us all to prosper materially, or that he does not want us to suffer or wants us to live the ‘victorious life’ by ‘naming and claiming’, then get them a copy of this brief, readable book. It would be a good place to start the conversation with them.
Ferguson, Sinclair. The Sermon on the Mount: Kingdom Life in a Fallen World. Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, 2009.
This is the third printing of this book which was originally published in 1987. It is composed of Ferguson’s sermons on the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew chapters 5 to 7. And it is obvious that these messages were early in the career of the great preacher. I read through them devotionally and allowed them to keep my mind on the kingdom theme as I preached through the latter parts of Matthew. While worthwhile, I think I prefer Stott’s exposition of the same material over this one.
Folmar, Keri. How Can Women Thrive in the Local Church? Crossway: Wheaton, 2021.
9Marks has published these wonderful little books called the Church Questions series. They are short (usually sixty pages or less). And they attempt to answer some of the more divisive and frequent questions within the church. Folmar provides eight specific ways that help women grow in their service to the church. I love the answers because they are not the typical ones most people think. I worry she might come across as too pushy for some ladies. But I cannot criticize her answers. This would be a good starting place for ladies to consider their service in the local church.
Gilbert, Greg. What is the Gospel? Crossway: Wheaton, 2010.
It is a basic question, but sadly, many people get it wrong. The gospel is not mercy ministry. It is not merely love toward others. It is not your personal testimony. All of these can be by-products of the gospel, but they are not the good news. The gospel is a message- God is the creator, man is the sinner, Jesus is the Savior, and we must respond in faith and repentance. Gilbert readjusts our thinking to consider the gospel rightly. This is a wonderfully written book that could be placed in the hands of a non-believer or given to a Christian to bolster their understanding of this marvelous message.
Kimble, Jeremy. How Can I Get More Out of My Bible Reading? Crossway: Wheaton, 2021
9Marks has published these wonderful little books called the Church Questions series. They are short (usually sixty pages or less). And they attempt to answer some of the more frequent questions within the church. Kimble has done a masterful job in explaining to the new believer (or older believer who has never been discipled) the best ways to understand their Bibles. His advice centers on being involved in the local church. I am considering purchasing many of these to give to visitors to the church. This one is wonderful!
Lowe, Julie. Helping Your Anxious Child: What to do When Worries Get Big. New Growth Press: Greensboro, 2018.
Anxiety has become an epidemic in our country. Statistics tell us more than 25% of people suffer from it. In our digital age, news (particularly bad news) is always available and before our children. Consider what we have endured the last three years: pandemics, school shootings, political turmoil, etc. We tell our kids they are safe, but they see otherwise. Lowe has written a wonderful booklet to help parents communicate faith in God in such situations- emphasizing not faith in the parents or in coping mechanisms. She provides 13 spiritual truths that parents should instill in their children. This is a book I wish I had early in my parenting.
Naselli, Andrew. No Quick Fix: Where Higher Life Theology Came From, What It Is, and Why It is Harmful. Lexham Press: Bellingham, 2017.
This is an abridgment of Naselli’s previous book, Let Go and Let God?, and it is a much more accessible option. I am always amazed by how influential Keswick theology continues to be. It created such false doctrines as ‘the carnal Christian’ and a ‘second’ baptism of the Spirit. Naselli does an excellent job providing an overview of the origins and the development of the movement as well as offering a thorough critique of it. If you were raised in the “Let Go and Let God” era, this might be a book you need to read. It corrects much that is commonly misunderstood in sanctification. I highly recommend it.
Powlison, David. Life Beyond Your Parents' Mistakes: The Transforming Power of God’s Love. New Growth Press: Greensboro, 2010.
I was looking for a resource to help a friend who struggles with a painful past due to poor parenting. This was precisely what I needed. Powlison exposes two lies that those who have had abusive parents experience. The first tells them, ‘I cannot have a loving relationship with God, because my parents distorted the image of Father in my psyche.’ The second is that you need to have intensive counseling in order to remedy the former. Powlison demonstrates that all the counselee needs is the truth of the Bible communicated through the Holy Spirit. This is not to say that a counselor/pastor/friend’s guidance is not helpful. But that lasting transformation comes from God. He also exposes whether or not a counselee prefers their role as ‘victim’ rather than allowing the Spirit to bring healing. Too often, it is easier to blame one’s parents for indwelling sin rather than owning it and dealing with it directly. Powlison, as usual, is a master at confronting the problem with love and gentleness.
Smith, William P. Assurance: Resting in God’s Salvation (31-Day Devotionals for Life). P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2019.
Some of these 31-Day Devotionals by the Biblical Counseling Coalition are real gems. This is certainly one of them. Many people struggle with assurance of their salvation for many reasons. Often the desire is to throw themselves into some activity to prove they are worthy. Smith teaches the reader to rest in Christ. He develops the book in three sections. First, he gets the reader to acknowledge the uncertainties they have with their faith. Then he builds up the reader by looking at what God has done to meet those uncertainties. And only then, in the third part, does he ask the reader to examine their external evidence based upon what Christ has done for them. It is a masterful work- one that I can put into the hands of someone struggling with little effort afterward because it is so accessible and comprehensive. This is one of my better reads for the year.
VanDoodewaard, William. The Quest for the Historical Adam: Genesis, Hermeneutics, and Human Origins. Reformation Heritage Books, Grand Rapids, 2015.
First a disclaimer- I know the author and consider him a friend. But I don’t think bias has slipped into my review of his book. I knew I would need to delve into the historical theology of Genesis so I had deliberately set Bill’s volume aside until after I completed my exegesis. The book is primarily a historical survey of the hermeneutics of Genesis chapters 1 through 3. The author has proven that the literal interpretation has been the consistent view since the early church. In fact, early in the history of the church, the main challenge came from those like Augustine who believed the Universe was created in an instant moment rather than the span of six days because a great God does not need time. The author demonstrates that those who propose old earth theories and the theistic evolution of man are of a relative recent phenomena. Those that do begin with scientific observation (which changes constantly) to reinterpret scripture with what they know from scientific data. The author is incredibly gracious with those who hold these views. And in the final chapter (worth the book alone), he describes what is theologically at stake by doing so. This is a valuable comprehensive historical survey. I commend it to any serious student of origin studies.
Whitman, Lauren. A Painful Past: Healing and Moving Forward (31 Day Devotional for Life). P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ 2020.
I know many people who have past experiences that continue to haunt them. The Biblical Counseling Coalition has produced these devotionals as tools to assist the counselee with homework. Lauren Whitman has just the right amount of gentleness in her writing that will keep the reader from feeling intimidated dealing with hurtful memories. She is positive, encouraging, and engaging. The one critique I have with the book is that the first portion of the devotionals seems disjointed and unconnected. They are valuable in that they reveal God as trustworthy. But they do not build off each other. However, the final 12 days do. That portion of the book is worth the effort of using the devotional.
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