Book Blurbs: June 2017

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

#1 – The Printer and the Preacher: Ben Franklin, George Whitefield, and the Surprising Friendship That Invented America by Randy Petersen (published by Nelson Books, 2015). Not many know of or forget that Franklin and Whitefield were contemporaries of one another and good friends. This book, while not the most engaging of an historical book, is helpful in sketching the culture in America that helped shape two of the most significant thinkers in our nation’s past. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.

#2 – Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha (published by Baker Books, 2017). This history books tells the story of the relationship between Martin and Katharina. In it, you will enjoy reading about their sense of humor, their simple approach to marriage, and their philosophy in child-rearing. Not too many Luther biographies go into detail about his marriage to Katharina, as this one does. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

Book Blurbs: May 2017

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

#1 – Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of I Timothy 2:9-15 edited by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner (published by Baker Academic, 1995). If you want a seriously in-depth exegetical digest of I Timothy 2:9-15, buy this book and none other. In it contains both lexical and syntactical notes. The average laymen will find this book a “little over their head” but the scholar will enjoy the riches of the critical commentary that it is. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.

#2 – 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. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#3 – On Preaching: Personal & Pastoral Insights for the Preparation & Practice of Preaching by H.B. Charles, Jr. (published by Moody Publishers, 2014). While I believe his other book – On Pastoring – is much better, you won’t regret buying and reading this book on preaching. It is a condensed version of a class on expository preaching. His wit and wisdom will keep you reading one chapter after the other. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#4 – Zeal without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice by Christopher Ash (published by The Good Book Company, 2016). Sleep, time off, friendships, renewal, encouragement, warnings and joy. These subjects help protect pastors from burnout. This brief book (123 pages) is written from a pastor who experienced burnout a number of times and has wisdom to dispense about how God helped restore his spiritual health. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#5 – The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry by R. Kent Hughes and Douglas Sean O’Donnell (published by Crossway Books, 2015). I wish this was a book I received when I graduated seminary. It is a modern version of Charles Bridges’ book The Christian Ministry. In this book, you will find practical help on leading and planning a worship service, weddings, funerals, praying publicly, music, baptism, communion, counseling, and hospital visitation. One of the gems of this book is that half of it seems like actual transcripts of orders of service (e.g., weddings, funerals, communion and baptism services) from Presbyterian, Anglican, Lutheran and Baptist denominations. The only criticism I have is regarding the chapter on pastoral counseling where it’s author (not Hughes) presents integrationist ideas when it comes to helping people. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

REPRISE: One Way to Get Free Books

A few years ago, I was reading a friend’s blog that informed me of a way to get free books. Some of you may know this already, but many Christian publishers will give you a free book in exchange for a review of that book on your blog (or other website if you have one), their website and then a book purchasing website (e.g., Amazon, CBD, etc.).

You can subscribe or join as many “publisher reviewer clubs” as you like and receive all the books you can handle. Each publishers has a different set of rules for their free books (e.g., deadline to read the book, number of followers on your blog or website), but generally speaking if you get a book, you read it and review it; and then you can get another book.

Did I mention you choose the books as well? You don’t have to read and review whatever they want to send you. You get to choose the book. About 75% of the time, the books I have received have been great resources I plan on using in the future. So it is a good way to build your library.

Below, I will hyperlink to each Christian publisher I use if you are interested in joining the reviewers-for-free-books-club.

Home Page Picture - Books2

Book Blurbs: April 2017

#1 – I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude That Makes the Difference by Thom S. Rainer (published by B&H Publishing, 2013). This book does not say enough about the mindset that a member of a local church should have towards his fellow members. The attempt at covering subjects like unity, preferences, desires, prayers, leadership, and church membership falls short of being a compelling resource. There are much better books on the subject. BOOK RATING: 6 out of 10 stars.

#2 – 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. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#3 – We Cannot Be Silent by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. (published by Nelson Books, 2015). Vintage Mohler. This is a helpful commentary on the changing views on sexuality in our culture. While Mohler does not give a biblical defense of God’s view of sexuality, he does rightly “flag the issues” and trends our culture is experiencing as it moves away from God’s design of marriage and sex. If you are looking for a Christian perspective on these issues, this is the book for you. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.

#4 – Counseling One Another: A Theology of Interpersonal Discipleship by Paul Tautges. (published by Shepherd Press, 2015). This is a good book to put in the hands of someone who wants to see the similarities and differences between discipleship and counseling. The author does a fabulous job building a theology for why we counsel in the church and why it is a necessary part of our personal and communal sanctification. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

#5 – A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer by John Piper. (published by Crossway Books, 1997). Jesus assumed every Christian will fast. John Piper rightly elevates the discipline of fasting to a means of worship. This is not a book of “how to’s” when it comes to fasting but a book answering the “why’s” of fasting. BOOK RATING: 10 out of 10 stars.

6 Books I Would Read If They Were Written

From Some Dead Guys

J.C. Ryle on pastoring. The reason we don’t have more writings by J.C. Ryle is that most of his library was burned down about fifty years after his death. But the little I have read of his pastoring style, he was worthy of emulation. This man wrote tracts (or pamphlets) for each member of his church and hand-delivered them monthly to personally encourage and instruct his congregants. That is a man who loved his sheep!

John Wesley and George Whitefield co-authoring a book on the atonement. These men – one a Calvinist (Whitefield) and the other an Arminian (Wesley) are such godly men who loved the Lord and His Word. How about reading a back-and-forth where these men critique each other’s view on the nature on the atonement? I bet we would witness a sharing of the truth in love but also discover incredibly intriguing biblical banter on a very controversial subject. By the way, these men had profound respect for each other and I am confident this would come out in a book such as this.

John Calvin’s commentary on Revelation. I would read this for two reasons: (1) he never wrote a commentary on this N.T. book and (2) he is one the most brilliant commentators in church history.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on his assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler. If you know Bonhoeffer, you know that he was once a pacifist and defended that from Scripture. Due to the genocides taking place in WWII and his own understanding of the abuses of slavery, Bonhoeffer rejected his pacifism and sought to kill Hitler. I would love to read a book detailing the process by which Bonhoeffer went through that led him to change his mind on violence. What passages meant the most and why? Were the men encouraging or discouraging his pacifistic views? What were they saying? Did he regret taking that stand against Hitler in light of Romans 13?

From Modern Men

J.I. Packer on the trinity. Since I love this man’s book Knowing God and his writing style is so accessible to the layperson, why not a book on each member of the trinity, covering attributes, nature, and ministry?

Wayne Grudem on teaching. Other than R.C. Sproul, I can’t think of anyone alive today who is better at taking big truths and communicating them in simplistic ways. I would love to read Grudem on how he teaches. What is his philosophy of teaching? What fundamentals and concepts does he follow? What advice would he give men and women in formal teaching ministry? How does he encourage men and women to grow in their teaching?

If any of these books exist, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! They will go straight to the top of my “Must Read List.”


Book Blurbs: March 2017

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

#1 – Small Groups with Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities by Steve Gladen (published by Baker Books, 2011). This author is the Pastor of the Small Group Community at Saddleback Church in CA. Their church has more than 3,500 adult small groups. While I believe there is great value in having ministry philosophies and purpose statements, this book goes way too far on the structure of small group ministry. I found myself lost in the many acronyms, hierarchies and flow charts. Small group ministry may need to have a certain level of complexity for a megachurch like Saddleback, but I didn’t find too many helpful insights on how to be intentional with your small group ministry. Seems like a small group of Christians, gathering to enjoy fellowship, prayer and time in the Word is simple enough. BOOK RATING: 6 out of 10 stars.

#2 – Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth edited by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue (published by Crossway Books, 2017). My Dad says he would rank this #3 for systematic theologies behind W.G.T. Shedd and Wayne Grudem. Not having read Shedd, I would concur with his comparison to Grudem. This is a helpful resource, but not the “gold standard” for systematic theologies. At times, it reads too scholarly for most Christians. The formatting and outline is hard to follow as well. It lacks the doxology emphasis of Grudem, but does contain extensive bibliographies at the end of each chapter like Grudem. The one section of the book I would give high praise is Ch. 7 on soteriology – very thorough and thought-provoking. BOOK RATING: 8 out of 10 stars.

#3 – Look and Live edited by Matt Papa (published by Bethany House Publishers, 2014). I am sure this author is a fine music leader at his church in Raleigh, NC. And after reading this book on God’s greatness, I can see the carryover to writing song-lyrics and this book. At times, the book was hard to follow, because instead of forming thesis and logical statements that support these statements, he would just write one or two words and then a period, as if he was trying to emphasize a truth – like you might in a song and not in a book. I’m not gonna lie – I didn’t enjoy the book very much. It was hard to follow and didn’t have as much Scriptural support as I had hoped. BOOK RATING: 5 out of 10 stars.

#4 – Church History 101: The Highlights of Twenty Centuries by Sinclair B. Ferguson, Joel R. Beeke and Michael A. Haykin (published by Reformation Heritage Books, 2016). My only criticism of this book is its brevity. And when I say the book is brief, I mean it (only 99 pages). Surely this book is meant to be read by someone who doesn’t have a timeline in church history. If you are wanting substance, this book is not for you. But if you want to know the names and events of each century that you should study further, this book can be of use to you. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.

#5 – Jesus: The Only Way to God by John Piper (published by Baker Books, 2010). How can someone be saved? This is the question that is answered in this short book (123 pages). And Piper does a great job addressing different O.T. and N.T. passages. It might be a little scholarly for some, but still readable. I would recommend giving this to non-Christians who would consider themselves intellectual or fans of reason. BOOK RATING: 9 out of 10 stars.

#6 – The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher (published by Penguin Random House, 2017). The author capitalizes off the continual un-Christianizing of culture by suggesting that Christians ought to form communities of faith (not churches) that are committed to prayer, fasting and more instruction from the Word. That sounds good but it suggests too much withdrawing from society when Jesus has not changed our mandate to “go and make disciples” (Matt 28:16-20). Even though some men I respect endorse this book, I cannot say this is a good strategy for living faithfully in light of the downgrade of Western Society. BOOK RATING: 7 out of 10 stars.


UPDATED: The Top 20 Books I Want to Purchase to Read

I am in between reading material right now, but thought I would stay as close as possible to the theme of reading books. So here goes.

I have a “Most Wanted Book” list that has served as a Christmas wish list over the years and even a place I can refer to when I want to buy some new books. I should also say that these books don’t necessarily represent books that I believe will become “my favorites” as some point, but just books I want to read for a number of different reasons.

Instead of sharing the whole list with you, which probably has around 150 books, here are my top 20 most desired books (in alphabetical order).

  1. And So To Bed: A Biblical View of Sleep by Adrian Reynolds
  2. Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges
  3. Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch
  4. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan & Preston Sprinkle
  5. Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul
  6. For the Glory: Eric Liddel’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr by Duncan Hamilton
  7. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her by Jonathan Gibson
  8. Habits of Grace by David Mathis
  9. How the West Really Lost God by Mary Eberstadt
  10. How to Talk So People Will Listen y Steve Brown
  11. If You Bite and Devour One Another by Alexander Strauch
  12. Intolerance of Tolerance by D.A. Carson
  13. Life of John Calvin by Alister McGrath
  14. Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester
  15. Prepare Them to Shepherd by Brian Croft
  16. Puritan Practice of Meditation by Joel Beeke
  17. Red State Religion by Robert Wuthnow
  18. Side by Side by Ed Welch
  19. What About Free Will? by Scott Christiansen
  20. The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson