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What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (January 2024 through March 2024)

Howe, Sean. Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Harper Collins: New York, 2012.

I grew up reading comic books. I think my parents would tell you that is where my passion for reading first developed. Now, when you combine reading comics and history, you would think you would have a winner for me. Sean Howe traces the beginnings of Marvel with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby all the way to 2012 when its first big budget movies began to be released. I thought I would enjoy the story, but it portrays decade after decade of in-office bickering. This tends to be what happens when you get creatives together; everyone is emotionally involved. It was also sad to learn that those who created these iconic characters did not receive any royalties for the creations. Be prepared for ‘colorful’ language. If you want to relive your favorite storylines alongside reading page after page of arguing and bickering, this is your book.


Jackson, John G. Pagan Origins of the Christian Myth. Martino Publishing: Mansfield Centre, CT, 2016.

John Jackson (1907-1993) was a white, Pan-African historian and atheist. This is a reprint of a 1941 publication in which he criticizes Christianity as being a distorted myth originating from African paganism. Sadly, I have seen many atheistic black readers are promoting this book on the internet. A friend asked me to read it and give my thoughts. I must say, the cleverness of the book surprised me. It is full of outdated information, misinterpretations, straw man arguments and errors. If someone were ignorant of historic Christianity and were inclined to disbelieve its claims this would be the perfect book for them. The author makes the premise seem plausible. Plus, it’s eighty years old and it makes it seem like there has been some conspiracy theory to silence Jackson. But historians (both religious and secular) have been aware of this data for centuries. At each point I was able to write down in the margins the truth or the flaw in his argument. I feel sad for anyone who has to read this. It has the potential to do much damage as it leads people away from the truth.


Jamieson, Bobby. Sound Doctrine: How a Church Grows in the Love and Holiness of God. Crossway: Wheaton, 2013.

This is a volume within the 9Marks Building Healthy Churches series. It’s one that I have put off reading for a while, and I can kind of understand why. The overall intention of the book is to promote sound doctrine within a church which in turn should provide fuel to love God more as well as produce holiness in the life of a believer. I agree wholeheartedly with the premise, and I do like its condensed form. But there are other books I would promote over this one (Knowing God by J.I. Packer comes to mind along with Devoted to God by Sinclair Ferguson).


Meacham, Jon. His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope. Random House: New York, 2020.

For black history month, I read this book on John Lewis and the civil rights movement. This book was not only a #1 New York Times bestseller, but also a Pulitzer Prize winner. I confess I did not know much about Lewis. I am glad I read this biography. While Meacham tends to lean towards hagiography, I found Lewis’s courage to be inspiring. He truly wanted to live out the principles of love overcoming evil. And unlike many of his contemporaries he was able to do so while keeping Christ in the forefront. He did not shy away from his pacifist position. To be sure, there were many political issues that Lewis and I would disagree on. And I noticed several places throughout the book that I took issue with Biblical interpretation. But there is no denying this man’s greatness and service to our country.


Olasky, Marvin and Leah Savas. The Story of Abortion in America: A Street Level History 1652-2022. Crossway: Wheaton, 2023.

Marvin Olasky and Leah Savas are journalists for World Magazine. They have combined their talents to research the history of abortion in America from what they call a ‘street-level’ perspective. Often the abortion issue is framed from a ‘suite-level’ understanding- meaning more philosophical and academic. The writers have instead looked at historical excerpts from court records to newspaper articles to see how the common person viewed the subject throughout the centuries. Historians refer to this type of work as ‘social history’. I think the authors have done a brilliant job. They certainly refute the myth that if abortions were not offered legally, women would suffer from back-alley predators. They also discuss why it is so difficult to enforce abortion laws. Though decidedly pro-life, I think anyone on either side of the abortion debate would benefit from reading this. Be forewarned, much of the material is graphic. But it needs to be recorded and we need to be reminded of the horror of this practice. This is probably the best book I have read in recent memory. 


Powlison, David. Overcoming Anxiety: Relief for Worried People. New Growth Press: Greensboro, 2008.

We recently conducted a youth retreat on the subject of anxiety. I purchased these booklets to prepare our youth leaders in case a student approached them and wanted to talk. Once again, Powlison has gotten to the heart of the subject. Anxiety is not a sin. God placed this emotion in our lives to guide us. For example, if I am walking through a forest infested with snakes and bears, it’s good for me to be on alert. However, anxiety can become sinful when we allow it to speak lies to our heart that God is not sovereign over our world and doesn’t have our best interests at his heart. Powlison deals with anxiety from a truth perspective. He does not rule out medication as there may be a place and time for it. But anxiety must be patiently overcome with truth. This is a wonderful booklet to get you started on the subject.


Powlison, David. Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare. Baker Books: Grand Rapids, 1995.

This was a re-read for me. Our pastoral staff did a study on spiritual warfare last year. And I wanted to review the principles I had learned from Powlison early in my career. This was a book that ‘set me straight’ on the subject. Powlison describes two different types of spiritual warfare within the Christian movement. One he labels the ‘Ekballistic Mode’ verses the ‘Classic Mode’. The former may sound like it’s out of a Ghost Busters movie, but it is based upon the Greek preposition ‘ek’ which means ‘out of’, ‘out from’, or ‘emit’. Practitioners of this type of warfare believe that demons inhabit or harass Christians and must be cast out or rebuked directly if a Christian is to have relief. In contrast to this is the classic mode of warfare. It applies Biblical principles to sin issues. As a Biblical counselor, Powlison no doubt falls into the latter category. He argues convincingly that the former is fighting the battles with the wrong weapons because of a misunderstanding of spiritual warfare. As always, Powlison was gentle and loving toward his opponents, conceding the strengths of the ekballistic movement and common ground. But this book will re-orient the reader to a more robust and biblical form of spiritual warfare that is based upon the word of God. I highly recommend it (if you can locate a copy).


Proehl, Bob. The Gilded Palace of Sin. Bloomsbury Academic: London, 2008.

This is a volume within the 33 1/3 series. These books focus on the history of specific albums that had a major influence on modern music. The Gilded Palace of Sin was released in 1969 by the Flying Burrito Brothers. As my readers are aware, I am fascinated with all things Byrds. After the album Sweetheart of the Rodeo was a commercial flop (though now praised as the first country rock recording), the Byrds split in musical direction. Roger McGuinn wanted to continue folk rock while Chris Hillman and Graham Parson wanted to continue pursing country rock. The latter departed to form the Burritos. Proehl details that story including the acquisition of the famous Nudie suits from the album cover (which are currently on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame). The Burritos were truly innovative, drawing from western country and the Muscle Shoals sound. But Graham Parson could not overcome his drug problems which frustrated the other band members and led to its split. This book is written well showing what transpired in those days- warts and all.


Ridley, Jasper. Bloody Mary’s Martyrs: The Story of England’s Terror. Carroll & Graf Publishers: New York, 2001.

Jasper Ridley is a former attorney who turned his attention to studying the history of England (primarily Tudor England, though his biography of Lord Palmerston is his best-known work). He gives a general overview of the succession of Henry VIII to Mary and the political intrigue of the sixteenth century (albeit oversimplified). But the best part of the book is the way Ridley has ‘rescued’ the martyrs. Often these stories are told for propaganda purposes like Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. But the author digs deeper into their stories. It makes the period no less brutal, but the biographical sketches are much more meaningful. I think he caught the ‘spirit’ of the age in that the persecution was just as much political as it was religious. And also, that it was the more common folk that suffered for it. This is a very readable history of the era.


Spurgeon, Charles. Only a Prayer meeting: Studies on Prayer Meetings and Prayer Meeting Addresses. Christian Focus: Fearn, Scotland, 2022.

Every year I read a book on prayer. I started this in 2023 but didn’t complete it until after the first of the year. It’s not one I necessarily chose but had in my possession. Pastors were given these books at the last T4G conference. And sadly, I never thought I would pan a book by Spurgeon. The comfort I take from it is that Spurgeon himself did not publish this. But this is a collection of obscure writings and addresses that the great Baptist preacher gave throughout his career and published posthumously. I can see why Spurgeon didn’t publish them in his lifetime. While there are some wonderful pithy quotes by the pastor, overall, the book suffers from poor exposition and trite thoughts. It is useful, historically, in recording what occurred at the Met Tab prayer meetings. But beyond that, I cannot commend the book in good conscience. If you are looking for a work to inspire your prayer life, look elsewhere.


Tautges, Paul. Remade: Embracing Your Complete Identity in Christ. P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2023.

It is rare when you can find a daily devotional that combines brevity with depth. Biblical Counselor, Paul Tautges has succeeded with Remade. He has written three months of daily devotionals. Each month emphasizes the three identities we have in our walk with Christ- that of Saint, Sinner, and Sufferer. At the conclusion of each devotion, he provides three applications – Talk to Yourself (what truth do you need to be reminded), Talk to God (what you need to pray about) and Talk to Others (what you need to share or from whom should you seek advice). This is one of those great devotionals that can be used on multiple occasions. I highly recommend it.