What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (July 2016 - September 2016)
Booth, Gordon. Evangelical & Congregational: The Principles of the Congregational
Independents with the Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order. Ware: EFCC, 1981.
This is one is probably only for those who have some historical interests in the polity of Congregationalism. It was written by congregational pastors in the late 20th century to encourage their brethren to return to the conservative roots of their denomination. Booth writes how early Congregationalists lived by their doctrine and he does a fair job, if not with some minor anachronisms. There is also a copy of the Savoy Declaration of 1658 to prove the interests of the early Independents in Britain. The author points out the strengths of R.W. Dale’s Manual as well as its errors. Sadly, the book failed in its purpose. Most Congregationalists in England are dwindling away or drifting into the Charismatic movement. But it is a good read none the less and adequately describes the early Congregationalist up to the mid nineteenth century.
Dever, Mark. Understanding the Great Commission. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2016.
One of the best things about attending pastor conferences is getting FREE books! I was given this one at the T4G conference in the spring. I am glad I was because I might have overlooked this little volume. This is from the new Church Basics series produced by the Southern Baptist publishing arm Broadman and Holmes working in conjunction with 9Marks Ministries. The main point of the book is that God intends to use fulfill the Great Commission through local churches. Dever’s message is well argued and thoroughly Biblical. I plan on using this book in our upcoming missiology class. My only complaint is that book is too expensive ($7.99) for its length (64 pages) and the quality with which it was produced (it appears to be printed on newsprint). But that is not surprising for a B&H work.
Eswine, Zach. The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations Through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015.
I was highly impressed with Eswine’s book, Spurgeon’s Sorrows, so it led me to try another of his titles. I am glad I did. We learn from this work, some of the personal background of the author that led him to write a book on depression as he shares how he was overwhelmed in pastoral ministry. Eswine portrays the norm of pastoral ministry. Pastors get caught into the trap of thinking we must be everywhere at once, we must know all the answers, we must be able to fix all situations and we must do it all right now! Of course those are all unrealistic expectations. But it is the press we feel from our congregations. Eswine looks at what Jesus would have us do. We are not meant to be super heroes. We are meant to live lives that demonstrate our own trust and dependence on the ultimate hero, Christ. This is one of those books I wished I had read earlier in my ministry. But most likely I would not have heeded the advice without the mistakes I’ve made. I highly recommend this book for those in pastoral ministry.
The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.
Even though I just received this last April, I have used it enough now to review it. First, I must say I am not a fan of the New International Version translation. Even though it was the translation I grew up with there are several places that I take exception with how the translation committee interpreted the text. But I was given this study Bible at the T4G conference. I am glad they gave it out otherwise I would not have discovered this valuable tool. The study portion has been completely revamped the new General Editor, D.A. Carson. He was able to gather several brilliant scholars such Andrew Naselli, Doug Moo, Kevin Deyoung, Andreas Kostenberger and more. They have put together one of the best study Bibles I have ever seen. The commentary is well done. The historical articles are exceptional. And the articles on theological concepts are from a conservative perspective. There is even a free app for it. I highly recommend this study Bible. Use your own preferred translation, but use the tools contained in this study Bible.
Perkins, John. Let Justice Roll Down. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1976 (2013).
I had the honor of hearing Dr. John Perkins recently at the Cornerstone initiative. He made a great impression upon me. He was so positive and loving, yet spoke with candor about the racial issues in our nation. It made me want to know more about his story. This is his autobiography. It was a difficult read, not because of the writing, but because of the shear amount of racism Perkins faced growing up in Mississippi. Yet, Perkins is a testimony that the gospel leads to love. He honesty shares his own struggles towards whites and how God radically changed him to be a voice of reconciliation. This is a man whom I would love to sit at his feet regularly to learn from. Though his daughter wrote and update chapter for the 2013 edition of this book, I hope that Dr Perkins will write a more detailed of account of events since 1976. I highly recommend this book.
Petersen, William. Martin Luther Had a Wife. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1983.
This is a delightful little book that strives to portray ‘an intimate, heartwarming, look at the marriages of great Christian leaders’. The subjects are Martin Luther, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Dwight Moody, and William Booth. The writer aptly shows that behind every great man was an even greater woman. Petersen doesn’t hold back truth. Not only do we have a glimpse into good moments, he shows the faults of these marriages as well. The reader comes away with the sense that his or her marriage is not too different from these great leaders. It is necessary to have God sustain you as a couple if your marriage is to be a success. Though the writer and I do not share the same views regarding the Salvation Army, I still was encouraged by the stories. This is a wonderful book to read a s a couple and spark discussions.
Qureshi, Nabeel. Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward. Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
This is the same author who told of his remarkable conversion from Islam to Christianity in the book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. I this book, Queshi attempts to answer 18 questions that an outsider would have in regards to Islam and the concept of a ‘holy war’ as taught in the Quran. He reminds us that just like Christianity there are various sects (think denominations) of Muslims. Depending what sect one belongs to will inform one’s interpretation of Islam. His point being that not all Muslims are ‘bad’ or a threat to the west. But the real danger is that the foundational text of Muhammad taken at face value open the door for radicalization which leads to terrorism. Qureshi reminds his fellow Christians that the counter point to this is to initiate loving sustained, gospel-driven relationships with Muslims. This book is well written and comes from a trusted source. This will provide a balanced perspective to the Muslim threat presented in the media.
Storms, Sam. More Precious than Gold: 50 Daily Meditations on the Psalms. Wheaton:
I read this book as a daily devotion. I am always encouraged when I read Storms work and this devotion was no exception. As typical with devotionals some days were good, yet others were outstanding. There were some wonderful thoughts throughout this book as the author digs into the Psalms. In his study of the first Psalm, he wrote, ‘Delight not mere duty should characterize our study of God’s word. Reading the law of God is for the purpose of rejoicing what is read.’ I only wish Storms had worked on more of the Psalms then the few he presents here. And if there is any fault, it is the author’s over-reliance on John Piper quotes (which I would have just read Piper on the subject). But it is a worthy read none-the –less.
Tripp, Paul David. Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say and Do. Wheaton:
This is one of those books that came at just the right time in my life. I love to read Tripp (though at times I could do without all the stories he tells). I am always encouraged and this book is no different. Tripp uses the word ‘awe’ to encompass the concept of being in a constant state of worship – that one should become fascinated and astounded before God. His premise is when our ‘awe’ is off, the rest of our being is out of sorts. He adequately describes how this principle affects every area of our lives. Tripp’s views were helpful as I worked through the concept of the ‘Joy of the Lord’ in Nehemiah. If there was only one thing I would have liked, was for Tripp to have addressed is how to regain one’s awe of God when it is at a low point. But overall, a wonderful book.
White, David. Sexual Sanity for Men. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2012.
Finally! A book I can whole heartedly recommend for struggling men who live in a sex saturated society. It is thoroughly biblical and very practical. David White has written a great guide for the man who struggles with any sexual sin (which means it is for all of us). The book begins with solid theology about who we are as sinners and what Jesus has come to transform. But unlike other books that promise false hope, White reminds the Christian this will be a continuous battle and struggle until we reach heaven. Therefore, we must live by faith in Christ making use of the means of grace he has given us- particularly our brothers in the church. This book is encouraging and offers real hope in Christ. It is effective in dealing with most sin, not just sexual sin. My only complaint is that book is set up to read daily for 14 weeks in a small group setting. Because of this the individual day readings are too short to get the full effect of what he is teaching. I would recommend reading the entire weeks lessons in one sitting and then discussing it in your small group. Skip the daily questions. I plan on using this in future ministry and reviewing for myself regularly.
Williams, E.S. The New Calvinists: Changing the Gospel. London: Wakeman Trust, 2014.
I was asked by a friend to evaluate this book. I found its contents to be very disturbing. The book attempts to make blanket accusations about the recent Calvinistic resurgence among young people. A strict Calvinist himself, E.S. Williams is a member at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London (Spurgeon’ Church). He is not trained as a theologian but is a health care professional. And he takes a negative view of this resurgence. And there is a definite lack of love towards his fellow believers in his critique. The book aims at trying to portray Mark Driscoll and Tim Keller as the primary leaders of the movement (which is speculative). He even devotes a chapter to the flaws of John Piper. However, I found thesis flawed on several point. He pretends the resurgence of Calvinism is uniform among young people (which it is not). Driscoll left the ministry at his church and submitted to a restoration process before the book was published (which he does not admit). And while Keller has his own issues (not denying the possibility of theistic evolution being one of them), he does take many of Keller’s quotes out of context and tries to classify him as one who practices a social gospel. Williams fails to interact with theological points using scripture and is more concerned with methodology- particularly the use of contemporary music in the Church. He fails to demonstrate how the movement overall is changing the gospel (which is in the book). While I do think Christians must be discerning of everything, I would not treat this as a fair evaluation. Perhaps Jeremy Walker’s book on this ‘movement’ might be a better and honest critique.
Wilson, Andrew and Rachel. The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the
Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016.
Andrew and Rachel Wilson were blessed with two autistic children. It is not what they expected and they confess it is not what they had hoped for. The book accurately describes what life is like parenting a special needs child. But it also offers an incredible amount of hope in God’s sovereignty and comfort as they do. I found myself laughing and crying as I was toucehd by their story. If you don’t have a special needs child, you still need to read this book to understand what life is like for these families on a daily basis. If you know someone with a special needs child, buy them this book. They will thank you for it as it will encourage their souls. I highly recommend this work.
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