What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (from April 2019 through June 2019)
Allison, C. Fitzsimons Allison. Trust in an Age of Arrogance. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2010.
Allison is the former Episcopal Bishop of the diocese of South Carolina. He is a rare conservative voice in the Episcopal Church USA (In fact, I am not sure he has remained within his own organization at this point). He has written only a few books. They appear maybe once every ten to fifteen years. But when they do, they are golden. Allison is brilliant. He articulates his points well with wonderful intelligent writing and a host of literary illustrations and references. In this book, he examines the ‘yeast’ of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and demonstrates that their leaven remains with us today. In our arrogance, feel we can contribute to our own salvation. And Allison argues that we cannot. We must humbly submit to the cross of Christ. This is not a popular message. And this book requires deep thought. But it is well worth reading and highly recommended.
Ash, Christopher. The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read (But Is Too Embarrassed To Ask). Charlotte: The Good Book Co., 2019.
This is a short primer of information your pastor wishes you knew (or hope you already know). It is not about monetary raises or perks for the pastor. But it is about what energizes and blesses those in ministry. It is what motivates him to get out of bed and do his job. The basic premise is when you desire a better pastor, you get a better church member. It really does come down to the church members sanctification. As a pastor, I found Ash’s seven virtues helpful. He writes in an effective and whimsical way.
Chapman, Steven Curtis. Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story. Grand Rapids: Revell, 2017.
This book took me on an amazing journey. When I first began the opening chapter, I wondered if Chapman was exhibiting more pride as the opening scene is his performance at Radio City Music Hall. But by the end of the chapter, I was in tears. I cried a lot as I worked through this book and I chuckled aloud a few times. Chapman’s honesty is stark. It took great courage to discuss the death of his daughter and the strain it took on his marriage. But overall, I came away admiring his simple faith. There are a few areas that disturbed me theologically (most noticeably the charismatic interpretations of events and the tattoo questions). But overall, I was glad to have taken this journey with man. His faith in God is unmistakable.
Dever, Mark & Jamie Dunlap. The Compelling Community: Where God’s Power Makes a Church Attractive. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015.
This is a volume within the IX Marks challenge that I am doing this year. Dever and Dunlap have really opened my eyes to ecclesiology and made a compelling case for the compelling community (pun intended). Instead of making the church wide open in accepting everyone. The authors make a scriptural argument that the church should be exclusive with the intent of being inclusive. We should focus on the relationships with our fellow Christians in great expectation that our love for one another would supernaturally draw outsiders to the gospel. I love the principles laid out in the book. I would highly encourage every church member to read this volume.
Hamilton, Craig. Wisdom in Leadership: The How and Why of Leading the People You Serve. Waterloo, Australia: Matthias Media, 2015.
I am a big fan of almost everything Mathias Media publishes. So even when I don’t know the author, I still can count on a quality book. This book on leadership is no different. Even though the book is written from a church vocational view, its message is relevant to all leaders but perhaps even more so to those who work with volunteers. It is divided into four sections. The first is leadership foundations. Hamilton establishes that good leadership begins with quality character within the leader. The second section is leading yourself. He explains how a leader must understand themselves first before they can lead others. That leads to the third section of leading other people. And the final section is leading the organization. There is wonderful wisdom here. I must warn the reader that the author draws from several secular sources and even some ‘Christian’ leaders from which we might be skeptical of hearing. But Hamilton handles them carefully and in most cases, my fears are alleviated later in the chapter.
Jay, William. Works of William Jay Vol. 6: The Christian Contemplated. London: C.A. Bartlett, 1843.
I have been rereading Jay over the last few months and I realized that I had reviewed few of his works. You can expect a few more of these in the near future. Jay was the topic of my doctoral thesis. And this volume was considered his magnus opus. They contain twelve topical sermons that Jay preached in the autumn of 1826. The subject matter is what one should expect from a Christian in various circumstances such as: the Christian in private, the Christian in adversity, the Christian in the world, and so on … leading till the final chapter of the Christian in heaven. This was Jay’s best-selling work and even received the praise of the infidel, William Beckford who admitted that Jay painted an alluring picture of Christianity. I, however, think that Jay’s best works are expositional as found in his sermons at Argyle Chapel. That is when Jay reveals himself as a true master. There are still modern editions of the Christian Contemplated that are readily accessible.
Jay, William. Miscellaneous Sermons: Selected from The Pulpit (Vol.1). London: J.J. Arrowsmith, 1849.
This is a collection of 32 sermons by William Jay. They were captured in shorthand by a stenographer attending services at the Argyle Chapel and published in a weekly magazine without preacher’s consent. According to Jay, this frustrated him greatly as he preferred to edit his own publications (Plus he did not receive royalties from the sermons). It is the same as ‘bootlegging’ in the music industry. But for the historian, it allows one to read Jay’s sermons as he preached them. Some are real gems. Others I think Jay would rather not have seen published. This is a rare volume. I am not sure another still exists and I happened upon this one by Providence. Supposedly, a volume 2 exists. I have seen an advertisement notice for it. If anyone wants to find it for me, you would have my everlasting gratitude.
Jay William. The Works of William Jay, Vol. 2: Morning and Evening Exercises (April – June). Bath: C.A. Bartlett, 1842.
Once again, I have been reading though Jay’s devotionals as I prepared for my lecture upon his life. This volume covered the second quarter of the year. Each day provides a morning and evening devotional of about five pages in length. It was said to inspire Spurgeon’s daily devotionals. There are many nuggets here, such as ‘‘What therefore establishes my faith in his death is beyond expression important. If it be false, I am left to the effects of the Fall. If it be true, my triumph is complete – It is all my salvation and all my desire’(p.44). And “The less happiness you have in the creature the more you should repair to his all sufficiency. Your distresses are designed to urge you to him; and if they have this affect, it will be good for you that you have been afflicted’ (p. 400). These volumes are great ways to increase your devotion to God.
Roark, Nick & Robert Cline. Biblical Theology: How the Church Faithfully Teaches the Gospel. Wheaton: Crossway, 2018.
This is a volume in the 9Marks Building Healthy Churches series. It is intended to be a brief overview of Biblical theology. The authors had a tremendous task in trying to explain the purpose of this type of theology in compact form. The basic premise is that the Bible contains a single metanarrative of God’s redemption of mankind. Biblical Theology seeks to pull that story from all 66 books. This is not a bad overview. But it still falls a little short in being thorough. A much better option is Michael Lawrence’s book, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church. But the strength of Roark and Cline’s book is the various typologies they draw from the Bible to show the coming of Jesus. They are brief but they magnify the greater picture of our King and Savior. I would read Lawrence’s book first and then allow this book to expand the imagery of Christ afterwards.
Ryle, J.C. Expository Thoughts on Matthew. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007.
When Proverbs is complete, it is my desire to preach through the Gospel of Matthew. Before I preach through a book, I work through it devotionally. So, I was using Ryle on Matthew as he has always proven to be a reliable guide. Ryle’s book on holiness has been one of my top ten life-changing books outside the Bible. But this particular volume was not to the level of the other three gospels. This was his first (published in 1856). And he no doubt improved as he developed the other three (for example Luke is double the size of Matthew and John is two volumes). In this work, Ryle has a tendency merely to state the obvious and some of his thought is repetitious. There is not the attention to detail and references to other authors that are available in the other volumes. I think if I had begun with Matthew and worked in order, then I would not have felt the disappointment with this one. But, never-the-less, after reading the others, this one left me somewhat unsatisfied.
Vroegop, Mark. Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament. Wheaton: Crossway, 2019.
What do you do when it is NOT well with your soul? How do you reconcile your present tragic circumstances with a God who you know loves you? You learn the Biblical practice of Lament. You learn to express your grief over a broken world, an ongoing for restoration and a trust that the Lord will provide. Mark Voregop shows you the patterns he gleaned from the lament psalms after he lost his daughter to death. He and his wife learned that God provides and language and grace for those times when hope seems lost. This is an excellent overview of the concept of lament. I highly recommend it.