What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (April 2022 through June 2022)
Barcellos, Richard. Better Than the Beginning: Creation in Biblical Perspective. Reformed Baptist Academic Press; Palmdale, CA, 2013.
I have completed my initial overviews of Genesis (my next sermon series). Now I am getting down into the ‘weeds’ so to speak by studying issues related to the book. I am glad I picked up this volume because Barcellos places Genesis within its overall Biblical context. He encourages readers to read the text with the ending of the Bible in mind; what was ‘intended’ by God and what will be restored. I was pleased to discover that the author’s literary understanding of twenty-four-hour days mirrors my own. The only weakness to the book might be the extra-long quotations appropriated when a summary would have served the author better. This is a great Biblical theology of Genesis.
Crosby, David (with Carl Gottlieb). Long Time Coming: The Autobiography of David Crosby. Doubleday: New York, 1988.
I am a huge fan of the music group the Byrds (which I won’t explain why here). David Crosby is a founding member of the group and I wanted to understand that dynamic that caused the band to fire him. They seemed to lose a lot of the vocal harmonies that made them distinct after they kicked him out. In his autobiography, Crosby enlists the aid of his friend Carl Gottlieb, a professional writer. The book is a mix of Crosby giving his personal account, Gottlieb narrating, and the testimony of other friends and colleagues that give their side of the story. What transpires is 489 pages of vanity- both in its portrayal and pursuit. Crosby is a likable character upon first meeting, but utterly manipulative. The key event was Crosby becoming addicted to heroin and the final two chapters describe his incarceration and recovery. But even here, we still see the man’s pride. And it is that same arrogance that keeps others from working with him to the present day. After reading the book, I felt I got a better glimpse of an unregenerate soul.
Duke, Alex. What Should We Do About Members Who Won’t Attend? 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 questions within the church. Of course, what to do with absent church members is certainly a hot-button issue. Does one simply ‘purge’ the roll by dropping the names? Duke argues from Matthew 18 that the entire church body is responsible for seeking to restore that member in love and warning them of their prolonged absence from the body - if they have not joined another like-minded congregation. The book is loving and has the best interest of the absent member at its heart. (I have been placing these little booklets on our library shelves. Feel free to pick one up and share).
Ferguson, Sinclair. From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading and Applying the Bible. Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh, 2014.
I started this book back when I began teaching my Bible and Apologetics class for BTS. I had to put it aside for a couple of months but I enjoyed the beginning so much, I wanted to finish it. As only Ferguson can do, he is so encouraging in his writing. His purpose is to give the reader confidence in the scriptures. Within eleven chapters he covers how we know the Bible to be true, how to read the Bible, and then how to apply it to our lives. This is a wonderful basic primer on understanding the Word within the life of the Christian. It is a great place to start for a reader who is just beginning to take his or her walk with the Lord to the next level. I highly commend it.
Gardner, James. Johnny Haynes: Portrait of a Football Genius. Pitch Publishing: Worthing, 2017.
Ever since the 1990’s my favorite soccer team in England has been Fulham (I became a fan during the period when so many Americans played for the side). Arguably the best player in Fulham’s history is Johnny Haynes (1934-2005). The few times I have been to Craven Cottage, I passed by his statue, and I wanted to know more about the man. His skills as a passer are legendary. This volume by James Gardner is an amalgamation of sources from other biographies, news articles, and personal interviews. It accurately portrays the man. Haynes was a brilliant player who really seemed to lack a certain amount of ambition. It would appear he was driven by money, despite never playing for a large club. He never won a major trophy, though some would categorize him as one of the top ten midfielders to ever play the game. Perhaps it was his personal loyalty that kept him at Fulham, but most likely it was his comfort level. I came away sad on two levels after reading the book. On one hand, I never got to see the man play- his peers described him as brilliant. On the other, it was obvious that Haynes was not a believer. He sadly reminds me of so many souls in Britain that I will not see in the life beyond.
Jenson, Phillip & Tony Payne. Prayer and the Voice of God: God’s Living Word Will Transform the Way You Pray. Matthias Media: Sydney, 2019.
Every year I read a book on prayer. I am looking for material that will inspire and keep me fresh. I chose this volume because I have tremendous respect for Matthias Media Publishing. This book provides a basic overview of the spiritual discipline of prayer. It attempts to answer questions for new believers like why we should pray, how we should pray, why do we go through droughts when we don’t ‘feel’ like praying and so on. While this did not provide me with much that was new, this would be a great book to give to people who are unfamiliar with Biblical prayer. I think it exceeds the 9Marks primer by Onwuchekwa. I am likely to begin using it for that purpose.
James, Sharon. Gender Ideology: What Do Christians Need to Know? Christian Focus: Fearn, 2019.
There are few books that I say are ‘must reads’ for Christians, but I would categorize this volume as one of them. This is by far the best overview of Gender Ideology. It is brief, concise, and introduces the reader to the major issues. James balances the harm that Gender Ideology is doing with a loving response to those who are struggling with gender dysphoria. Christians need to be educated on this issue and be aware of how their children are being indoctrinated to accept fallacy. I have ordered multiple copies to be made available in the church library. I encourage you to read one.
Leeman, Jonathan & Andy Naselli. How Can I Love Church Members with Different Politics? Crossway: Wheaton, 2020.
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 questions within the church. Obviously, the title of this book is one that affects all of us and the authors are well qualified to write on the subject. Leeman begins by providing a helpful paradigm on where to evaluate political issues as first, second, or third tier. A good example of this would abortion. It falls within their first-tier issues, but the methodology on how to eliminate abortion might fall into third-tier (protests at clinics, incremental legislation, etc.…). Leeman reminds the Christian that we are obligated to love one another despite our differences. Naselli closes out the book with a brief overview of how the conscience works among Christians. I highly recommend this little book for disciples who struggle to get along with others who have variant political views.
Lloyd-Jones, Martyn. Why Does God Allow War? Crossway: Wheaton, 2003.
This book is not labeled well. The title gives the impression that the book is an overall reasoned argument for why God does allow war. But this is actually a selection of sermons by Lloyd-Jones that were delivered during World War II at Westminster Chapel. The actual sermon ‘Why Does God Allow War?’ is brilliant. It was worth the price of the book alone. But it is not the only gem in the book. There are sermons on prayer, on endurance, on God’s sovereignty, and on our future hope. It is easy to see why Lloyd-Jones was a stable voice for so many during a crisis for war-torn Britain. I enjoyed each sermon. I commend this book for devotional reading.
Miller, John J. The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football. HarperCollins Publishing: New York, 2011.
This is probably more of a bit of fluff than a real legitimate historical study. The reader is lured in by the title. The book is partly a historical overview of early collegiate football and mostly biographical information regarding Teddy Roosevelt. In the environment in which the President was raised, football was seen as a ‘manly’ game. As one might imagine, the early game (which did not have the forward pass option) created numerous injuries to students. The more competitive it became, the more combative. University Presidents almost eradicated the sport from the campus. This is when Roosevelt intervened. When he was president of the United States, he called a luncheon of the major proponents of football, which eventually led to changes in the rules that made the game more acceptable. That was it. That is the ‘salvation’ that the writer attributes to Roosevelt. It was an easy read and you will learn about the culture of the period, little about the history of the former President, and much about the history of college football. But Roosevelt’s contribution to football was pretty small.
Plummer, Robert. 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible. Kregel Academic: Grand Rapids, 2010.
Brian Fourroux used this as a text for his hermeneutics class and I decided to appropriate it for a small group of guys I meet with so we could learn how to study the Bible. Plummer’s book is ideal within a small group setting. The questions are given in brief ‘bite-sized’ chapters that aid the student in discovering the correct way to study scripture. The book is divided into four sections. The first section teaches about the Bible (reception, canonization, etc.…). The second section gives a general overview of how to interpret the Bible. Section three gets into the specific of understanding how to interpret different genres. And the final section is a mixture of practical issues such as ‘Can I lead a Bible Study?’ and ‘What trends are current in Biblical interpretation?’ I liked the book and its approach. It is very accessible to the novice student and can launch them into deeper understanding. Plummers suggested resources are solid as well.
Strickland, Darby. Is It Abuse? A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims. P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2020.
Few books affect me on the same level as this one. I needed clarity in my counseling of troubled couples, and Darby Strickland has taught me what exactly is abuse, what are its effects and how to bring initial healing to victims of abuse. I must confess, I was more ignorant than I thought. It has helped me greatly to read this perspective from a woman who regularly counsels other women. Strickland poses abusers as oppressors. The Bible speaks of oppression and how the righteous are to respond. She has found appropriate scriptural language that can help victims. And she does so while being sensitive to the oppressors who are trapped in their own cycles of sin. This is a book I plan to read again. I have already recommended it to my pastors fraternal. In my opinion, at least one or two elders in every church should read this book.
Walton, John H. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate. IVP Academic: Downers Grove, 2015.
Now that the majority of my exegetical study of Genesis is done, I have been doing a ‘deep-dive’ into individual topics related to the book. This includes viewpoints with which I disagree. First, I want to say, I believe John Walton (who teaches at Wheaton College) is a brilliant scholar. I have benefited from many of his Old Testament studies. However, in this work, Walton argues exclusively for a literary framework to the first three chapters of Genesis. And by doing so, it allows him to hold to old age creation and theistic evolution. He also believes that there were other humans either created before and concurrent with Adam and Eve (sometimes referred to in origin debates as ‘pre-adamites’ and ‘co-adamites’). This is not a ‘new’ position. Various forms of such views have been present since the enlightenment. Taking the literary framework alone allows one to hold to the theory of evolution and claim the doctrine of inerrancy at the same time. It was good for to me to read this because Walton’s books (of which this is from a trilogy) are very popular. He did challenge my thinking in some areas, and I can see how he wants to remain orthodox while remaining open to scientific theories. But in doing so, he fails to take the literal literary evidence into account, and glaringly missing is the end purpose for which creation occurs leading to the new heaven and new earth. This is one area in which covenantal theology is extremely helpful.
Whitney, Donald. Praying the Bible. Crossway: Wheaton, 2015.
This book is a classic even though it has only been published a little over seven years. Within its pages, a master of spiritual formation shares his insights on how to pray through the scriptures. While he teaches to pray the scriptures in general, Whitney specifically encourages Christians to pray through the Psalms. They were originally composed as a response to God; therefore, they are valuable to provide language and situations to help us know how to pray in every circumstance. The appendix has a wonderful reading/praying plan for every Psalm over a 31-day period. I have read this volume again to teach its contents at our first Wednesday night prayer meeting. But if you are unfamiliar with this spiritual discipline, I encourage you to pick up a copy.
Wood, Leon J. Genesis: Bible Study Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1975.
I have loved this brief commentary series ever since I first became a Christian. They are conservative theologically, short, and cover the major topics of each book of the Bible which makes them highly accessible. I like to read them after doing a deep dive to make sure I don’t lose myself in the weeds as I prepare to teach books of the Bible to others. Sadly, I was not impressed with this particular volume of the series. Wood (while staying true to his conservative convictions) only told me what I just read in the passage rather than explaining it to me. Outside of a few helpful archaeological references, I learned very little. I am sure there would have been a better resource to fulfill my expectations than this book.
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