Books

A Reading Challenge in 2018

The Wichita Public Library issued a challenge in 2018 with the hashtag #ReadICT. The challenge is to read 12 books in 12 months and in 12 categories in 2018. Reading 12 books in a year is not much of a challenge for me, but reading them in 12 categories will be.

I say “will be”, because I decided to accept the challenge. In fact, a handful of friends here in Kansas have joined me and we formed our own Facebook page to track our progress, educate one another on what we are reading, do mini-book reviews, etc.

This will be a challenge for me because I am usually a one-genre reader. I mostly read non-fiction religion and some history here and there. The 12 categories that are a part of this challenge are as follows:

  • January – a library book – I am currently reading Wyatt Earp: A Vigilant Life by Andrew C. Isenberg.
  • February – a detective novel or true crime book – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works on Sherlock Holmes will probably a target for me during this month.
  • March – a book about reading or writing – I might return to Mortimer J. Adler’s How to Read a Book.
  • April – a book set somewhere you’ve never been – Not sure yet
  • May – a book recommended/given/loaned to you by a friend – If you want to suggest a book, I am “all ears.”
  • June – a book with an animal on the cover – Have no idea yet
  • July – a graphic novel – Again, not a clue yet
  • August – an essay or short story collection – Any thoughts?
  • September – a book by an author of a different ethnicity than you – I am leaning towards reading a book from one of the civil rights leaders from the 50’s and 60’s
  • October – a book about a topic in the news – We will have to wait and see “what is happening” in October.
  • November – a book published the year you were born – This is probably the category I am most intrigued by. 1977 here I come!
  • December – a book by an author slated to visit Wichita in 2018 – Last year, we had Dave Barry and Stephen King visit us in my hometown. Not sure about this year.

If you want in this challenge and want to join our Facebook page, let me know!

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Book Blurbs – December 2017

#1 – On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work by Derek Prime and Alastair Begg (published by Moody Publishers, 2004). This book on the nature of pastoral ministry has a particular strength: each author explains in a practical sense how they apply the ministry philosophy they write about. The topics are many – a pastors calling, a pastor’s character, what a pastor’s goals an/or priorities should be, a pastor’s prayer life, a pastor’s devotional life, a pastor’s study habits, preaching, pastoral care, conducting worship as a pastor, a pastor’s leadership, delegation, the importance of leisure and family time, etc. BOOK RATING: 8 out of 10 stars.

#2 – In His Image by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey (published by Zondervan Publishing House, 1984). If you have read the book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by the same authors, this book is a companion to that one. The authors explain the anatomical makeup of from the body from a Christian worldview, and you will finish this book with the question, “How can anyone deny that God created man?” BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#3 – Saving the Saved: How Jesus Saves Us from Try-Harder Christianity into Performance-Free Love by Bryan Loritts (published by Zondervan Publishing House, 2016). Other than the chapter on the sin of worry (Ch. 11 – “God’s Got You”), this wasn’t one of the better books I have read from a solid preacher I have heard. I found the arguments about pleasing God vs. performing for God weak, poorly reasoned and unhelpful. The illustrations used in the book were confusing at times.  On the other hand, you won’t discover any unbiblical conclusions – just not argued very well. BOOK RATING: 7 out of 10 stars.

#4 – The War Within: A Biblical Strategy for Spiritual Warfare by Jay Adams (published by Harvest House Publishers, 1989). What a helpful tool this book is for any Christian at any level of maturity. If you have never read Adams, you will not be impressed with his writing style, but you will be greatly blessed by his simple answers to big questions with Scripture. This book answers questions about temptation, knowing the enemy (Satan), and wisdom on how to win the spiritual battles we face daily Buy and read this book! BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#5 – Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken (published by Crossway Books, 2017). If I could narrow down my concerns to one word for the modern church it is the title of this book: “uncomfortable.” The Gospel calls us to live a life that is not like the rest, and it will often be uncomfortable. This book gives practical helps on how you can better serve the awkward body that is the church and live a life that is uncomfortable for God’s glory. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#6 – Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women by Susan Hunt (published by Crossway Books, 1992). My Mom, who has shown a great commitment to discipling younger women, has told me this is the only book on discipleship she recommends to women, and now I know why. What a tremendous resource for women in the local church. If I could buy a copy for every female member of my church, I would. In this book you will find regular encouragement and help for the task of discipling and being disciples by other women. If you are a woman and read this book and STILL don’t feel compelled to be involved in discipleship, question your salvation. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

Top 10 Books I Read in 2017

  1. Hand in Hand: The Beauty of God’s Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice by Randy Alcorn (published by Multnomah Books, 2014). I found this book on a bargain shelf for $5 at Mardels – not thinking much of my purchase. After reading the first two chapters, I realized the gem I now owned. The balanced view of our free will and God’s sovereignty is no better represented and derived from Scripture than Alcorn’s book. There is not any other book I will recommend on the subject than this one. The middle chapters are admittedly not as helpful, but the first few and last few chapters are worth whatever you can buy it for.
  2. God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture by Matthew Barrett (published by Zondervan, 2016). I read this book in preparation for teaching a series on the 5 solas, and boy am I glad I did. When (not if) you read this book, you will learn about the qualities of Scripture (e.g., clarity, necessity, inerrancy, truthfulness), the views some have held on Scriptural authority throughout church history, and the current challenges to its authority. This is now my #1 book in bibliology. The author is very readable, very biblical, and his collections of quotes throughout the book inspires, convicts and edifies.
  3. Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken (published by Crossway Books, 2017). If I could narrow down my concerns to one word for the modern church it is the title of this book: “uncomfortable.” The Gospel calls us to live a life that is not like the rest, and it will often be uncomfortable. This book gives practical helps on how you can better serve the awkward body that is the church and live a life that is uncomfortable for God’s glory. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.
  4. Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification by Thomas Schreiner (published by Zondervan, 2015). There is no better defense of justification by faith alone that I am aware of. The author does a tremendous job giving biblical insight into the reality that our faith is based on the righteousness of Christ and not our works but that our faith will produce works. In this book, you find this teaching throughout church history, you will gain help on contemporary debates, and see the teaching of justification in both the O.T. and N.T. Buy this book and read it!
  5. Promises Made: The Message of the Old Testament by Mark Dever (published by Crossway Books, 2006). What Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology accomplishes as a doctrinal resource, this book by Dever does the same for O.T. book backgrounds resources. What I mean is that you get great information in each chapter and encouraging devotional material. Dever paints pictures of each O.T. book, and makes them practical, with each chapter ending with about 10 discussion questions. It would be a great resource for your personal library, or a Sunday school class or small group wanting to pursue a survey of the O.T., or as a preaching reference. I can’t wait to read the companion book surveying the books of the N.T.
  6. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976). In all fairness, I did not read this book in the month of August but completed its reading, which began in January. Everyone who has preached through the Gospel of Matthew told me, “Buy Lloyd-Jones” and I am glad I did. The author rightly captures the concern Jesus preached about – inward hypocrisy and the importance of addressing the heart. I would read this book even if I weren’t preaching or studying the Gospel of Matthew.
  7. The Mentoring Church: How Pastors and Congregations Cultivate Leaders by Phil A. Newton (published by Kregel Publications, 2017). What you will discover when you read this book is a “how to” manual for developing leaders in the church. What you will benefit from is a biblical exposition of how the early church mentored its men. What you will enjoy is seeing the leadership development strategies of key leaders throughout church history (e.g. Zwingli, Calvin, Spener, Gano, Spurgeon, Bonhoeffer). What will speak to your heart is Chapter 2 when the leadership development ministry of Jesus is unpacked. What will provoke many good questions for your church staff and leadership team going forward are Chapters 10-13 where different church models of how they train leaders are explained.
  8. Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women by Susan Hunt (published by Crossway Books, 1992). My Mom, who has shown a great commitment to discipling younger women, has told me this is the only book on discipleship she recommends to women, and now I know why. What a tremendous resource for women in the local church. If I could buy a copy for every female member of my church, I would. In this book you will find regular encouragement and help for the task of discipling and being disciples by other women. If you are a woman and read this book and STILL don’t feel compelled to be involved in discipleship, question your salvation. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.
  9. Let the Children Worship by Jason Helopoulos (published by Christian Focus, 2016). If you don’t see the benefit of having children sit through the worship service, read this book and it should change your mind. If you already have your children sit through the worship service, read this book and be encouraged to excel still more. If you have just recently started having your children sit in the worship service (as we at Wichita Bible Church have), read this book and receive the practical suggestions for how to best teach them to engage in worship.
  10. The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World by Melissa A. Kruger (published by Christian Focus, 2012). It is refreshing to read practical books that attack specific heart issues. The sin of coveting is one of the Ten Commandments and it shows a displeasure against a Sovereign God. Kruger’s book is biblically sound and each chapter ends with 10-15 study questions, so the book could easily be used for a small group or women’s Bible study.

Books by Women to Read

I will admit there are many books I have not read from women that I would like to or need to, but of the ones I have read, here are my favorites (in no particular order)

  1. The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World by Melissa B. Kruger. It is refreshing to read practical books that attack specific heart issues. The sin of coveting is one of the Ten Commandments and it shows a displeasure against a Sovereign God. Kruger’s book is biblically sound and each chapter ends with 10-15 study questions, so the book could easily be used for a small group or women’s Bible study.
  2. The Excellent Wife: A Biblical Perspective by Martha Peace. This is THE book for women on her role as a wife. It is thorough; it is biblical; it is practical. You will find a hard time locating another book that is more important for every wife to read than this one.
  3. Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha. One of the best biographies I have ever read! Their marriage had an impact on the church’s view of marriage for the clergy. You will have a deeper appreciation for Katharina, who was called by God to be the helper to one of church history most important men. In fact, you may be more blessed to hear Katharina in her own words as she verbalizes her faith than Martin himself.
  4. Lies Women Believe: And the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Many emotions are tools for Satan and this author knows what those area. With each lie, DeMoss counters them with biblical truth. You will enjoy being equipped how to handle depression, desires, your emotions, hormones, love, marriage, pride, priorities, self-worth, submission, suffering, work, and worldliness.
  5. Marriage Is Hard by Susan Black. This has been one of my favorite books on marriage. When you put 2 sinners together in marriage, it is a daily battle of egos and wills. But the battle is not husband vs. wife, but husband and wife vs. the flesh. God provides what each spouse needs to live selflessly, and this book equips us to face the hard realities in marriage.
  6. None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin. If I could have every woman read one book written by a woman, it would be this one. I am not aware of another book on the attributes of God written by a woman. This book is a gem and I would put it on the same level as Tozer or Packer for theology proper. The thesis – being not like God is great and this book explains why.
  7. Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others by Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock. Hospitality is more than made beds and tasty food. It begins with a heart to serve others. This book was written by 2 professors at my alma mater – The Master’s University. You will find very practical helps on how to create an environment of hospitality in your home, and the Scripture to “back it up.”
  8. Secret Things of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. How does a former liberal, English professor who was an active lesbian become the wife of a Reformed pastor? Answer – Jesus Christ invaded her life with the Gospel. Her story is this book.
  9. Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. Common parenting issues (e.g., backtalk, sibling rivalry, rebellion) are discussed with very specific instruction for parents (not just mom’s) on how to respond in a godly way. The goal is to equip parents to not respond in sinful anger, and this book is a helpful resource for that temptation.
  10. With the Master: Before the Mirror of God’s Word by Susan Heck. Yes, this is my mom. And yes, I am biased. Of all her books and Bible studies written, I enjoy this one this most. It is an exposition of John’s 1st Epistle and comes fully equipped with study questions at the end of each chapter. No fluff, no kidding around, no emotionalism. Just straight up Scripture and straight up biblical wisdom from a spiritual mother to many.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham. I remember her story of being taken captive with her husband in a Philippine jungle in 2002, but I didn’t read this book until I moved to Wichita, KS – the area where she is from. Her story is a compelling tale of God’s faithfulness and the power of prayer.

How to Study Your Bible by Kay Arthur. She can get a little “weird” sometimes in hermeneutics, but her study Bible is what I used to “cut my teeth” on learning how to study the Bible. And this book will teach you be an active Bible student by learning to observe, interpret and apply what you read.

Jonathan and Sarah: An Uncommon Union by Edna Gerstner. This was the 1st book I read with Andrea, and we began reading it as an engaged couple. It is collection of diary entries from Jonathan and Sarah Edwards that gives you a glimpse into their private life. You will be encouraged by their faith and thankful to learn they “were just like the rest of us” in life’s experiences.

Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes. This companion book to her husband’s book for men (Disciplines of a Godly Man) is a great resource for personal or small group study. Like Kent’s book, Barbara stresses the importance of a woman training herself to live in a holy manner. You will find help on subjects like the church, contentment, evangelism, giving, marriage, the mind, perseverance, prayer, service, singleness, submission and worship.

Q/A Friday: What Book (outside of the Bible) Has Impacted You the Most?

Holiness: Its Nature, Difficulties and Roots by J.C. Ryle (originally published in 1877).

This book has had the most impact upon my walk with the Lord because Ryle’s writing style is so simplistic as he addresses the core subject for every Christian: becoming like God. And his choice for where to start in Chapter 1 – the subject of sin – is masterful. We cannot know what it means to become like God until we know how far we must travel.

When I read this book for the 1st time, I was overcome by the hard work it is to be holy and become holy. Ryle taught me that the process of sanctification is something I am either gaining or losing ground on every minute of every day. He challenges me to become like God, to hate sin and to tell as many others about this journey.

He wrote the book because, unfortunately, too many people were enraptured with the 19th century second blessing movement of instant holiness. Many thought you instantly became holy with no work, no blood, no sweat and no tears – called the Keswick movement. Ryle saw holiness as a practical outworking of sanctification and the Keswick movement saw it as instantaneous when one came to Christ.

All of this led Ryle’s writing of Holiness. He wrote it to answer and protest this movement and it still educates, challenges and rebukes the seeker-friendly church, the post-modern church, the liberal church and even the reformed church.

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please email it to charlesheck@cox.net or post your question in the comments section.

Book Blurbs: November 2017

Here are some books I had the privilege of reading this past month and some brief thoughts about each one.

 

#1 – The Briarpatch Gospel: Fearlessly Following Jesus into the Thorny Places by Shayne Wheeler (published by Tyndale House Publishers, 2013). Reading this book was as painful as walking through a briar patch. Suspect exegesis, too much culturally-driven hermeneutics, shallow Gospel, and a celebration of ambiguity lead me to NOT recommend this book for any purpose other than trying to better understand those who think much of the book. BOOK RATING: 1 out of 10 stars.

#2 – The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith by Ken Wytsma (published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2015). If your book is not endorsed by an orthodox evangelical leader, that is a “red flag.” This book is an attempt to help Christians with questions of doubt or apparent paradoxes in Scripture (e.g., humility is greatness – Philippians 2). The book has no specific direction and each chapter doesn’t seem connected in the chapters before or after it. Answers to questions cannot be found even if the questions are raised. Criticisms at the modern church are shared with no solutions. It was a frustrating read, and I won’t read it again. BOOK RATING: 3 out of 10 stars.

#3 – The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teachings by John MacArthur (published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2017). Vintage MacArthur. Rigidly Biblical, concisely argued, and illustrations from the contemporary church. The book clearly shows the Gospel of Jesus Christ was the same Gospel preached by the apostles, by Jesus Himself, and all throughout the Bible. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.

#4 – Sweethearts for a Lifetime: Making the Most of Your Marriage by Wayne A. Mack and Carol Mack (published by P&R Publishing, 2006). This would be a great resource for a small group or Sunday School class. It is thorough in its study of marriage, preparing for it, fulfilling God’s design for it, renewing it, etc. At the end of each chapter are discussion question to help you make the truths even more practical, and these questions would be of great benefit to a couple to work through together. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.

Book Review Blurb: The Mentoring Church

Book Review Score – 10 out of 10

Book Title: The Mentoring Church: How Pastors and Congregations Cultivate Leaders by Phil A. Newton (published by Kregel Publications, 2017)

I have greatly benefitted from this author’s writing in the past (e.g., Elders in the Life of the Church). What you will discover when you read this book is a “how to” manual for developing leaders in the church. What you will benefit from is a biblical exposition of how the early church mentored its men. What you will enjoy is seeing the leadership development strategies of key leaders throughout church history (e.g. Zwingli, Calvin, Spener, Gano, Spurgeon, Bonhoeffer). What will speak to your heart is Chapter 2 when the leadership development ministry of Jesus is unpacked. What will provoke many good questions for your church staff and leadership team going forward are Chapters 10-13 where different church models of how they train leaders are explained.

I would highly commend this church to elders and deacons who are needing or looking to be more proactive in developing male leaders in their church.

I would like to thank Kregel Publications for giving me a copy of this book to read, review and apply to my current ministry.