Fundamentalist by Joey Svendsen. This was by far the most raw and honest book I have ever read. However, it was much needed in my life right now. In this book Svendsen shares about his legalistic upbringing in the church as well as his ongoing struggles with mental illness. One of the main themes throughout this book is Svendsen’s journey of understanding his own salvation. He shares about how he use to view the “sinner’s prayer” as a checklist of things he must say and how he felt guilt about certain behaviors or activities all the while wrestling with his faith. He continues to share his stories of faith, doubt, and mental illness all the way up into adulthood. The subtitle of the book gives you a peak into the beauty of this story – “Stories of a mentally ill, obsessive compulsive, legalistic youth group kid turned pastor.” It’s a book that shows how our upbringing can impact us in huge ways and how our own brokenness keeps us from seeing and enjoying the beauty of the Gospel. This was a great read but I say that with caution. If you’re offended by Christians who cuss and are comfortable with talking about sex and related issues openly this is not the book for you. If you are familiar with Svendsen and his work with the BadChristian community this will come as no surprise. I’d still recommend the book but be warned there will be things in this book that don’t comfortably fit into the “Christian book” category. But that’s ok; it’s a great book!
Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is one of Bonhoeffer’s most popular books and it stands as a classic on the topic of Christian community. In this little book Bonhoeffer lays out what Christian community is (chapter 1) and then follows that with what daily life looks like with other believers (chapter 2) as well as with yourself (chapter 3). The final two chapters deal with ministering to others as well as confession within the Christian community. The entire book is deeply rooted in Scripture but also extremely practical for Christians among all generations. This book helped me see exactly what God calls me to when it comes to community as well as how that should practically look in my life. There are encouragements in this book that may not come naturally or easy for us in our world today but I believe Christians reading this book, including myself, would do well to follow what Bonhoeffer is suggesting. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is desiring to get a good framework on what Christian community is and how it looks practically within the church.
Uncomfortable by Brett McCracken. This is another book on the topic of Christian community. Like the title suggest, the theme of this book is being “uncomfortable.” McCracken argues that both our faith and community as Christians is and should be a bit uncomfortable. In the first section on “uncomfortable faith” he lays out how our faith calls us towards the uncomfortable. Everything from the cross, holiness, love, mission, and more doesn’t come naturally to us. Faith propels us to believe and live out some uncomfortable truths. Then he gets into section two on “uncomfortable community.” In this section he dives into various parts of Christian community and how they are important and needed no matter how uncomfortable they make us. For example, he deals with topics like racial diversity, worship styles, and church authority. Two things really stood out to me about this book. First, McCracken rightly admits there is no “perfect church” and that searching for a church that is the perfect fit for you is the wrong approach. In our culture of consumerism this is a much needed reminder. I needed it and I think others do as well. Second, he lives out what he writes. He shares about how his own church context is not the most comfortable to him and how his church isn’t the “perfect fit” for him. He shares stories and illustrations from this part of his life and it’s extremely helpful.
Two other books I’ve recently read that I chose not to review are Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley and More Than a Carpenter by Josh & Sean McDowell.
There isn’t a shortage of books on prayer. It’s safe to say prayer is one of the most popular topics among Christians books (as it should be). In his book The Prayer That Turns the World Update Down, Albert Mohler writes about prayer and in particular the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6. This books serves as a tool to help the reader not only understand the Lord’s Prayer but also how the model Jesus gave should impact the way they pray. Mohler goes through the Lord’s Prayer and spends a chapter on each statement or petition that Jesus made. It’s a book that includes rich theology but also practical application in regards to the Lord’s Prayer.
I’ve read my fair share of books on prayer but this is by far one of my favorites so far. It was not only one of my favorites but served as one of the most helpful in regards to shaping my view of prayer and how I go about practicing prayer in my own life. There are two things that stand out to me as to why I really liked this book. First, I liked how Mohler didn’t jump right into discussing the Lord’s Prayer but instead spent a chapter covering the section of Scripture right before the Lord’s Prayer. This section of Scripture (Matthew 6:5-8) sets up and includes important context when understanding the Lord’s Prayer. The chapter where Moheler discusses these verses is an excellent read. Second, I really enjoyed some of the nuggets Mohler shared about the Lord’s Prayer that I have never thought about or heard taught before. For example, Mohler points out the use of “our” and “we” throughout the prayer rather than words like “me” or “I.” Mohler rightly points out how Jesus is reminding us about the corporate nature of our Christian faith. He says, “To be Christian is to be part of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. By God’s grace we are incorporated into the body of Christ so that our most fundamental spiritual identity is not an “I” but a “we.” This runs against the grain of fallen state. It also runs against the grain of American individualism-an individualism that has spread into many sections of evangelicalism. But we must be normed by Scripture. Jesus teaches us to drop the “I” and start with “our” (page 46-47). It was little things like this throughout the book that gave me a fresh look at the Lord’s Prayer.
I’d highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand the Lord’s Prayer better and wants to allow the teaching of Jesus to shape the way they pray. Indeed this should be the desire of every Christian. This book is pretty short and is as a simple read but will I believe will make an impact on anyone who reads it. It will give you a fresh look at a commonly used prayer and will remind you of some of the basics of what Jesus taught in regards to prayer.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.
Parents should be praying for their children. But what actually should parents be praying for? There could be a lot of answers to that question but I want to draw your attention to at least two things parents should be praying for in regards to their children. We see these two things in chapter 13 of the book of Judges.
Chapter 13 of the book of Judges introduces us to a man named Manoah. In verse 2 we find out Manoah’s wife is barren and they have no children. Starting in verse 3 we see that their situation is about to change when an angel appears to them and informs them that they are going to have a child. Later in the chapter we see this come to pass and the boy is named Samson. You can read about Samon’s life in Judges 14-16.
What we find tucked in the middle of chapter 13 though are two prayers that Manoah prays in regards to his son Samson. I want to show you those two prayers and encourage you to pray these same two things for your children as well.
The first one is found in verse 8, which says, “Then Manoah prayed to the Lord and said, “O, Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.” The first thing Manoah prayed for was God’s guidance in parenting his child. Our children are given to us by God and if we were all honest we would admit we have no clue what we are doing with these kids He has given us. The good news is the One who gave us our children desires to help and guide us in the journey of parenting them. Parenting books are great. Talking to other parents is helpful. However, nothing is as good as going to God and asking for His help when it comes to parenting our children. Manoah desires the Lord to teach him and his wife how they should parent this son and this should be the desire of our hearts as well.
The next thing Manoah prayed for in regards to his son is found in verse 12, which says, “And Manoah said, “Now when your words come true, what is to be the child’s manner of life, and what is his mission?” The second thing Manoah prayed for came in the form of a question, which was: What is my child’s mission in life? This is by far one of the most important questions we need to ask God when it comes to our children. More importantly, we must ask this question correctly. The correct way to ask this question is this – God, what is YOUR mission for my child? It’s not about what I think their mission should be. It’s not about what will get them into the right college or career. It’s not about what will help them make the most money. Our desire should be to understand what God’s mission is for their lives. As parents, we must strive to help our children encounter God’s mission for their lives and then support that mission at all cost.
What things are you praying for when it comes to your children? Why not pray the two things mentioned above as well. Pray for God’s guidance in parenting them as well as asking God what His mission is for their lives.
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by Randolph Richards and Brandon O’Brien. This book was one of the best books I have ever read when it comes to the topic of reading the Bible. The author’s goal in this book is to help Western readers understand how their Western context impacts the way the interpret the Bible. They point out that often we miss things (some small and some big) in Scripture that people in Eastern cultures as well as during the time when the Bible was written wouldn’t have missed. The authors chose to focus on nine major differences between Western and Eastern cultures that impact the way we read and interpret Scripture. By doing this they help the Western reader understand the Bible in the culture it was originally written. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to grow in their understanding of Scripture and how to read it well.
The Self-Aware Leader by Terry Linhart. As a leader there are times you need to step back and evaluate yourself. This book was helpful to me in doing just that. As I lead others I often neglect myself and who I am as a person and a leader. I’m glad I took some time to read this book as it served as a helpful tool is evaluating myself and helping me grow. In this book Linhart helps leaders see the blind spots they often miss. He covers areas like the leader’s past, temptations, emotions, pressures, and more. In each of these areas he helps leaders see where they can go wrong but also how they can manage them well. I really liked how there was a focus on Scripture and what it says about leadership and these blind spot areas. I also liked the practical “self-check” sections inserted throughout the book to help the reader think about and apply what they are reading. I’d recommend this book to anyone who finds themselves in a leadership position.
Facing Messy Stuff in the Church by Kenneth Swetland. Churches are messy because people are messy. Sin has caused major brokenness and people bring that brokenness into the church. In this book Swetland provides several case studies to help pastors and churches think about how they should deal with messy situations. Each chapter is it’s on case study and provides no instruction on what a church should or shouldn’t do. This allows the reader to think about their own situation and how they should handle in within their own church context. There are helpful questions at the end of each chapter to guide this process. The topics covered in this book through the case studies are – depression, sexual harassment, gambling, pornography, divorce, suicide, AIDS, grief, abuse, alcohol abuse, adultery, child molestation, homosexuality, miscarriage, murder, and abortion.
One other book I read recently I chose not to review was A Little Book on the Christian LifeA Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin.
12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke. Smartphones have changed the landscape of our culture. Phones have impacted the way we communicate, view ourselves, work, and even interact with the Bible. All these things and more are discussed in this helpful book. In this book, Reinke walks through twelve ways the smartphone is changing us. Before getting into the twelve reasons he offers a very insightful and helpful theology of technology. As far as I’m aware that isn’t something that has been written about that much in other places. He does an excellent job of laying the foundation and then diving into the twelve reasons. I’m not going to list all twelve reasons here but there were a few that stood out to me as they where the most convicting in my own life – ignore people around us, loss of literacy, and are comfortable withs secret vices. My favorite thing about this book is how Reinke never encourages the read to just get rid of their smartphone as a way to fix the problems and issues it had created. In some cases that might be a good option for people (Reinke helps the reader walk through a few questions to consider if that should be their next step or not) but it may be that many people just need to make changes and adjustments to use their smartphones more wisely. Overall this was an excellent book I would recommend to anyone who uses a smartphone (which is almost everyone).
Conscience by Andrew Naseli & J.D. Crowley. I’ve never seen or read a book on the topic of conscience before so when I saw this book I knew I had to read it. As someone who grew up in a culture that I was very legalistic I have always struggled with matters of the conscience and the Christian life. This book was extremely helpful in my journey out of that culture and into a better understanding of the freedom we have in Christ. The first few chapters of this book deal with defining conscience and tracing it’s appearance throughout the Bible. Once the foundation is laid the obvious questions about living as a Christian with a conscience as well as how to relate to other Christians when our consciences don’t agree. In this book the Christian is encouraged to not ignore their conscience but to calibrate it so it’s in line with God and His Word. The authors rightly point out that people tend to have one of two extremes when it comes to their conscience – insensitive (they ignore its warnings and end up with what Paul calls a “seared” conscience) or oversensitive (they pack it with more rules than God intends and make it more about matters of opinions rather than truth). Neither of those are good. God has given us a conscience and we should use it rightly, which requires us to calibrate it with God’s Word. I’d encourage every Christian to take the time to read this important book.
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. I’ve aways been a fan of Peterson. His consistency and commitment over the years have been something of a model of what a pastor should be about. He is a man who loves God and His Word. These things are evident in this classic book. The book serves as almost a practical commentary on Psalms 120-134 (Songs of Ascents). Peterson points out that “these fifteen Psalms were likely sung, possibly in sequence, by Hebrew pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem for the great worship festivals” (page 18). Peterson walks through these fifteen chapters and explains what each ones teaches us about an area of following Jesus. As with all his writings, these pages contain a pastoral tone from Peterson and the reader will finish this book convicted for sure but encouraged to continue walking with Jesus.
Two other books I recently finished but chose to not review here are Zeal Without Burnout by Christopher Ash and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Both were great read I’d highly recommend.