Book Blurbs: April 2018

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

#1 – Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture by John Piper (published by Crossway 2017). If you have read one Piper book, you have read them all. “God is most glorified in us when we are satisfied in Him” is the thesis of this book, as it is in every one of his books. This book will show you how that motto applies to Bible study and reading. You won’t learn study techniques (other than arcing in the appendix), but you will be inspired to know God deeper in the Word He revealed. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.

#2 – Gospel DNA: 21 Ministry Values for Growing Churches by Richard Coekin (published by The Good Book Company, 2017). It’s cliché to say that churches should be Gospel-centered. This book shows you how that can become a reality. Whether you are a pastor or laymen, there is very insightful and provocative suggestions for how to encourage the effectiveness of Gospel ministry in your church. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#3 – A Biblical Answer for Racial Unity with contributions from H.B. Charles Jr., Danny Akin, Juan Sanchez, Richard Caldwell, Jim Hamilton, Owen Strachan, Carl Hargrove, and Christian George (published by Kress Biblical Resources, 2017). What you will most discover in this resource are expositions of passages that address the sin of racism and the means to build unity in the local and universal church. This collection of chapters are the edited messages from the Speaking the Truth in Love Conference in 2017. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#4 – Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow (published by Nelson Books, 2005). I decided to read this book due to the provocative title and also, I am a pastor who is always thinking of ways to develop men. If you are looking for a book with raw data about male church attendance, involvement, etc., this is a tremendous tool, even though the data may be over 10 years old. If you are looking for a book with biblical solutions on how to address the need for men to be more involved in the church, this book comes short of that need. It may be a source for illustrations in a sermon or seminar, but not necessarily one that will give you non-psychologized ideas for developing men. BOOK RATING: 8 out of 10 stars.

#5 – The Next Generation Leader: 5 Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future by Andy Stanley (published by Multnomah Publishers, 2003). As most of Andy’s books are, you will find him land somewhere between Joel Osteen and John Maxwell on the subject of leadership…and I don’t mean that as an endorsement. You won’t discover any outright heresy but a fair amount of pop-psychology on the issue of leadership. Nowhere does he deal with leaders in the Bible, and many examples of leadership in the book are secular. You could use this book to speak to the issue of secular leadership, but I would not commend this book to be used in the church to be used to develop male leaders. There are too many better resources on that subject than this one. BOOK RATING: 5 out of 10 stars.

#6 – John G. Paton: Missionary to the Cannibals of the South Seas (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2018). This was my 2nd biography I have read of Paton. This book differs from the previous one in that it covers his life more thematically than it does chronologically. And while I would prefer the chronological approach, this bio on a missionary that endured tremendous hardships in the missionary life (e.g., death threats, family deaths) will inspire and motivate any reader to be more faithful to spread the Gospel. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#7 – From Crip to Christ: Change from the Inside Out (Thatch Tree Publications, 2013). A friend of mine at church gave me this book to read about one of his mentors. The story is one of the power of the Gospel and its ability to reach a young man from a gang-saturated, drug and alcohol-filled areas of Los Angeles and mold him into a servant of churches and missionaries in Wichita, KS. If you read this book, you will find yourself rejoicing in the sweet provisions of God and His faithfulness to provide for those who love Him. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.


UPDATED: Why Every Christian Should Read Christian Biographies and Autobiographies

In my library, I have 74 books that are categorized as biographies or autobiographies. I have books on the lives of men and women all throughout church history – from the early church fathers (like John Chrysostom) to men still writing their biographies today (like Warren Wiersbe). And I have another 20-30 I hope to buy in the near future. I love to read books that are about real Christians and I believe every Christian ought to be in the habit of reading them.

For today’s post, I thought I would share with you the “Top 5 Reasons That Christians Should Read the Biographies or Autobiographies of Other Christians.”

#1 – Your anticipation for heaven will be stirred when you read biographies and autobiographies. As we consider the life journeys of men and women throughout church history and read of their deaths or martyrdoms, we will long for a moment or plethora of moments in heaven where we can sit alongside of them as brothers and sisters. Reading these genres of books will make you long to be with people like you read.

#2 – A form of discipleship happens when we read biographies and autobiographies. I sit in my office surrounded by almost 1,900 books. Not all of them are helpful, but most of them are. (I have begun throwing away books that are taking needless space on my shelves.) I am surrounded by men and women who have discipled me through their writings and life example. Reading their stories can be like walking arm and arm with them through their journey in life, seeing them convert to Christ, face trials, grow in their walk with God, etc. We look over their shoulders as their stories are told and we learn from their holy example.

#3 – Encouragement is given when we read biographies and autobiographies. It is always a blessing to see you are not in this fight for truth alone. It is helpful and a blessing to know of the men and women who have come before you and stood on the same hills, fought the same battles, preached the same Gospel, etc. It is encouraging to see their faithfulness and devotion and it is inspiring to mimic it as we read their stories.

#4 – Hebrews 11 begs us to read biographies and autobiographies. This chapter is one short biographical teaser after another. When it says, “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets” (Heb 11:32), does that not breed a curiosity for how such men got into this “Hall of Faith”? Doesn’t it make you want to go back and read their stories?

#5 – Christian stories always have a happy ending. No matter the brutality of one’s martyrdom or the painful experiences of one’s death or the persecution they endured during life. “Happily ever after” has never been truer than the lives of those that are contained in Christian biographies and autobiographies.

So you want to get started this year with reading more Christian biographies and autobiographies? Here is a list of suggestions:

  • Martin Luther – The Legacy of Luther by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols
  • William Tyndale – The Daring Mission of William Tyndale by Steve Lawson
  • J.C. Ryle – J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone by Iain Murrau
  • Jonathan Edwards – Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Iain Murray
  • John G. Paton – John G. Paton: Missionary to the Cannibals of the South Seas by Paul Schlehlein
  • Martyn Lloyd-Jones – The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Iain Murray
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

Book Blurbs: March 2018

#1 – Gospel Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide edited by Cameron Cole and Jon Nielson (published by Crossway 2016). Looking for a template to writing a philosophy of youth ministry? This book is the only one you will need to read. It’s contents include the Gospel, discipleship, preaching, relationships, parents, small groups, leadership training, music, retreats and events, evangelism, the poor, and short-term missions. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#2 – The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges (published by NavPress, 2003). Gospel, Gospel, Gospel. This book is 16 chapters of “Gospel talk.” You will not find anything un-biblical or unclear. Bridges is always easy to understand and accessible to every level of mature Christian. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#3 – The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs (published by Oxford University Press, 2011). Given the clever title of this book, I was super-excited to read it. But I was so disappointed in its contents. The author rambles from one section to the next. I never got any help as a reader about reading in an age of distraction, and instead had to listen to the author’s “pet peeves” about modern-day authorship, which was just opinion and not based on facts. BOOK RATING: 5 out of 10 stars.

#4 – Why Our Church Switched to the ESV by Kevin DeYoung (published by Crossway, 2011). Hear the journey of University Reformed Church from the NIV to the ESV. The 7 reasons they switched translations are basically the reasons I now preach from the ESV – especially #7. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#5 – The Red Sea Rules by Robert Morgan (published by Thomas Nelson, 2001). I was pleasantly surprised with this book. Normally, I get nervous with “how to” books based on O.T. narratives, because they tend to spiritualize the Scriptures they are referring to. This one didn’t. In fact, all 10 “rules” are soundly taught throughout Scripture. I would caution any Christian from making a practice of reading too much into historical data that we read in the Bible and coming up with your own principles that are not directly taught or common sense from the passage, but this author seems to be pretty careful. The only other critique I would give is his frequent use and citations of poor Bible translations that sacrifice precision for rhetoric (e.g., CEV, NTLT, Message, Living Bible). BOOK RATING: 8 out of 10 stars.

#6 – Biblical Church Revitalization: Solutions for Dying & Divided Churches by Brian Croft (published by Christian Focus, 2016). What a tremendous help this book was to me. As I complete my 4th year at my current church as a Teaching Pastor, I am convinced now more than ever that our church is being revitalized. The principles in this book will serve us well going forward, and this author has the experience of being in revitalization projects. If you read this book, you will be equipped to better cast vision, persevere, establish leadership, encourage membership, build unity, and worship the Head of the Church. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#7 – Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (published by Random House, 2010). This book (and movie) was recommended to me a few years ago, and I found it at a book sale for a few bucks. That price was undervalued! What a moving story of the perseverance of Olympian and Air Force office Louis Zamperini who was a POW in Japan and tortured beyond imagination. The only story I have ever read that comes close to the amount of torture he endured is Richard Wurmbrand. You will find this book hard to put down. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.


19 More Books!

Books, books, books. This is always an experience I look forward to at Shepherds’ Conference. And this year was no exception. Books were significant discounted. Books were given away for free. Books called my name regularly from the big, white tent in the parking lot, and I answered their call to change their address to my bookshelves in my church office.

In all, I came away with 19 books. They are as follows:

  • All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism by James Dolezal
  • Biblical Church Revitalization: Solutions for Dying and Divided Church by Brian Croft
  • The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women by Jon D. Street and Janie Street
  • A Biblical Mandate for Racial Unity by a plethora of contributors (Richard Caldwell, H.B. Charles Jr., Juan Sanchez, Danny Akin, Carl A. Hargrove, Jim Hamilton, Owen Strachan, and Christian George
  • Gospel DNA by Richard Coekin
  • High King of Heaven: Theological and Practical Perspectives on the Person and Work of Jesus by John MacArthur and Miguel Nunez
  • The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives edited by John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul
  • John G. Paton: Missionary to the Cannibals of the South Sea by Paul Schlehlein
  • John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock by Iain H. Murray
  • Long Before Luther: Tracing the Heart of the Gospel from Christ to the Reformation by Nathan Busenitz
  • None Other: Discovering the God of the Bible by John MacArthur
  • Paul’s Vision for the Deacons: Assisting the Elders with the Care of God’s Church by Alexander Strauch
  • Preaching Illustrations from Church History by Ron Prosise
  • Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture by John Piper
  • A Small Book about a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience and Peace by Edward T. Welch
  • Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ by Michael Reeves and Justin Taylor
  • To Preach or Not to Preach: Women’s Ministry Then and Now by William Varner

Happy reading to me!

Image result for shepherds conference

Book Blurbs: February 2018

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

#1 – The Gospel Call and True Conversion by Paul Washer (published by Reformation Heritage, 2013). If you want a book explaining the Gospel in detail, this book will be useful to you. It reads more like a series of sermons than a book that’s chapters are connected to one another. Chapters in the book take a close look at selected passages in the O.T. and N.T. My only criticism is that the writing style isn’t great and not as creative as I would prefer. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.

#2 – Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp (published by Crossway, 2016). This book is not practical; this book is a philosophy of ministry for parenting. What is helpful in this book – and rarely stated in books on parenting – is how our child’s greatest needs are also our greatest needs. We are more like our children than we want to admit. I would recommend this book be read by aspiring parents, new parents, or parents looking for a refresher on why God has called them to raise children. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.

#3 – Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity (published by Crossway, 2009). I had high hopes for this book, but was a bit disappointed. The stories of these men and their journey into Reformed faith was certainly interesting, but I wasn’t sure that their stories would compel others to take the same journey. BOOK RATING: 8 out of 10 stars.

#4 – Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy (published by Zondervan, 2000). The premise of this book is essentially biblical: God is more concerned about our holiness than our happiness, and that applies to marriage as well. My major criticism of this book is the emphasis on mystical Christianity, which leads to a downplaying of objective truth. Also, the chapters lack clear themes and main points. BOOK RATING: 6 out of 10 stars.

#5 – Grace from the Cross by Kyle Idleman (published by Baker Books, 2018). Just because this book is brief (76 pages) doesn’t mean it is not useful. The 7 last sayings of Jesus on the cross is the subject of the book. It’s devotional; it’s biblical; it’s evangelistic. Buy it for a non-Christian and walk through it with them. BOOK RATIING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#6 – The Resurrection and You by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell (published by Baker Books, 2017). You will find similar writing from McDowell in other books written by him; so, there isn’t much “new” in this short 61-page book. Due to its brevity, it would be a good resource to give a non-Christian who has real struggles in believing that Jesus could have rose from the dead. It is filled with evidence and plain reason. BOOK RATIING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#7 – Men Who Love Fierce Women: The Power of Servant Leadership in Your Marriage by Leroy & Kimberly Wagner (published by Moody Publishers, 2016). I wouldn’t classify this as a biblical counseling resource, even though there is Scriptural help scattered throughout. The book targets husbands who are married to women who have strong personalities and often usurp the male headship in the home that God designed for marriage. There is good practical counsel and I can see it being helpful for some couples, but I wouldn’t give it to an immature Christian who is easily swayed by secular thinking. BOOK RATIING: 7 out of 10 stars.

#8 – Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry (published by W.W. Norton and Co., 1974). As part of my 2018 reading challenge, a book on true crime was my assignment for the month of February. This book did not disappoint. While I certainly was disturbed by the evil of Charles Manson and his Hitler-like qualities he possessed over so many, you will find this book to be a very thorough treatment of the court case that put him in prison for life. If you like courtroom drama, pick this book up and read it. BOOK RATIING: 10 out of 10 stars.

Book Blurbs: January 2018

#1 – A Survey of Christian Hymnody by William J. Reynolds and Milburn Price (published by Hope Publishing Company, 1987). Some would give this a much higher rating than me – because I didn’t always follow the “music language” of rhymes and meters and rhymes, which is why I gave I the rating I did. But this book is an interesting read, as it basically is a history of hymn up to the 1980’s. If you want to know why certain styles of hymns and songs were introduced at different time periods, you will find this book helpful. In addition, there are brief profiles of hymn writers. BOOK RATING: 7 out of 10 stars.

#2 – Missional Motherhood: The Everyday Ministry of Motherhood in the Grand Plan of God by Gloria Furman (published by Crossway, 2016). Lots of rambling in this book and I didn’t follow the primary argument the author was attempting to make of why and how motherhood fits within the Great Commission. While I agree that parenting is one way we make disciples, the author’s explanation of such a concept wasn’t clear. BOOK RATING: 6 out of 10 stars.

#3 – Why Small Groups? Together Toward Maturity edited by C.J. Mahaney (published by Sovereign Grace Ministries, 1996). I’m still looking for a “go to” book on small group ministries, and this is the best I have read so far, but I still am not “on board” with several conclusions the author makes (e.g., qualifications for a small group leader), but the book is helpful and practical. The strength of the book lies in defining a small groups purposes and goals and defining fellowship. BOOK RATING: 8 out of 10 stars.

#4 – Biblical Counseling and the Church: God’s Care Through God’s People edited by Bob Kellemen and Kevin Carson (published by Zondervan Publishing, 2015). I would not be surprised if this book ends up being my favorite reading in 2018. The title suggests it is all about counseling, but it is more a book about discipleship in the local church and how a church can equip its people to counsel one another – which is a form of discipleship. Every church leader should read this book, and I hope to take our leaders through it one day. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#5 – Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life by Andrew C. Isenberg (published by Hill and Wang, 2013). Wyatt Earp was “not only a killer but in general a bad citizen.” This comes from an Arizona historian in the early 1900’s. The only information I had about Earp before I read this book was from the movie Tombstone (starring Kurt Russell) and Wyatt Earp (starring Kevin Costner). Both movies glorify Earp as an edgy lawman, but not near as edgy as he really was. Earp makes Batman or Jack Bauer look like angels. He broke laws to keep laws. This story is a helpful re-telling of his law-breaking life (e.g., murder, theft, adultery, fornication, maybe homosexuality, bribery, extortion, cheating, and much more) and is worthy of the nickname “vigilante life.” Parents, don’t dress your kids up as Earp for Halloween. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.

#6 – It Happened in Kansas: Remarkable Events That Shaped History by Sarah Smarsh (published by Morris Book Publishing, 2010). If you think Kansas is “blah,” read this book. Being a native Kansan for 4 years now, I have come to learn some of the stories contained in this book that make my home state a very entertaining place to live. If you read this book, you will learn about fossils found here, Civil War battles, the Dust Bowl, the Old West, the inventor of basketball, the roots of aviation, the goat-gland doctor, Brown v Board of Education, the summer of mercy, haunted cities, the flying spaghetti monster, and a “green town” rebuilt after a tornado destroyed 95% of the town. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#7 – Men of the Word: Insights for Life from Men Who Walked with God edited by Nathan Busenitz (published by Harvest House, 2011). Real men live by faith, are satisfied in God, treasure God’s Word, pray with boldness, love to worship, flee temptation, repent from sin, refuse to compromise, lead with courage, love their wives, shepherd their families, work hard, love their enemies, share the Gospel, love the church, and pursue purity. That is what you will learn about if you read this book that is filled with examples of saints in the Bible who both succeeded and failed in all those disciplines. Find a group of men in your church and take them through this book, which is equipped with a study guide for small group discussion. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#8 – Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance by R. Albert Mohler Jr. (published by Multnomah Books, 2008). What once was perverse has been normalized in our society. That is what this book is about as Mohler, who is a master-exegete of our culture, demonstrates. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.