The Legacy of Luther by Various Authors. One of my favorite figures from church history is Martin Luther. He was truly a unique man that was used by God in massive ways. His life and work continues to impact the way Protestants view their faith and well as how they operate as a faith community. There hasn’t been a shortage of books written about Luther when it comes to both his life and work. This book stands among many other excellent books written about Luther. However, this book is unique in the sense that it allows the reader to take a peak into key areas of Luther’s life and work that other works tend to overlook or don’t spend much time on. For example, there are chapters in this book on Luther’s views on music and preaching, Luther’s family life, and Luther’s later years before his death (which were pretty crazy). The contributors of this book shed light on many fascinating areas of Luther’s life and work that many readers will not get the chance to learn about in other books. I wouldn’t recommend this as the “go to” book on Luther, but would certainly make it one of the top ones out there.
Sing! by Keith and Kristyn Getty. I’ve never read a book on the sole topic of singing. This is one reason I picked up this book to read. However, what I didn’t expect was how much stuff it taught me about singing in just over a 100 pages. It’s a small book that packs a big punch. The reader will learn things like how people were created to sing as well as how we are commanded by God to sing. Readers will also learn about the importance of singing in not only the local church but also in their own personal and family life. There is even helpful bonus sections (called “bonus tracks”) that are written particularly for pastors, worship leaders, and songwriters. This is an excellent little book that I would highly recommend to Christians no matter your place in the local church community.
The Imperfect Disciple by Jared Wilson. One of my favorite authors to read is Jared Wilson. I love his Gospel-centered focus that’s wrapped in a down to earth tone that which makes for both challenging and fun reading. In this book Wilson strives to offer a discipleship manual of sorts that’s for people who “can’t get their act together.” He says, “I tend to think that a lot of ways the evangelical church teaches discipleship seem designed for people who don’t appear to really need it” (page 13). His response then is a book like this where he states: “I want to write a discipleship book for normal people” (page 14). I’d say he accomplishes that goal in this book. This is a book that offers a fresh reminder of God’s grace to people who realize they don’t follow Jesus as well as they want to or should. It’s a book that reminds them of the Gospel instead of giving them self-help action steps to follow. It offers a great reminder of what following Jesus truly means. I’d recommend this book to all Christians.
Two other books I’ve recently read that I chose not to review were The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul and The Skinny on Communication by Jeff White.
Reading the Bible Supernaturally by John Piper. This is one of the best books I have ever read on the topic of the nature of Scripture. In this book Piper helps the reader understand the goal of reading the Bible as well as how to go about reading the Bible. I walked away from this book with a deeper appreciation for the supernatural nature of the Scriptures as well a better understand of how I should go about reading it the way God wants me to. In typical Piper fashion this book is extremely thorough and will take some time for the average reader to work their way through it. As in all of Piper’s writing and teaching his aim is for Christians to deeply savor and treasure Christ. In this book he does just that through encouraging faithful and God-honoring Bible reading.
A New Kind of Leader by Reggie Joiner. This is a little book that packs a big punch. In this book Joiner encourages leaders to lead and minister in such a way that impacts the faith (both now and in the future) of the younger generation in the church. He walks through a few phrases that should characterize leaders who want to impact the younger generation: kids matter, strategy matters, your church matters, every family matters, the truth matters, doing good matters, and this week matters. I’d encourage anyone who finds themselves ministering to younger generations (especially within the local church) to read this book.
The New City Catechism (Devotional) by Various Authors. I’ve always been interested in working through a catechism personally as well as with others. This devotional helped me do just that as I used it during my own personal time with the Lord. The devotional is based off The New City Catechism, which is broken down into a series of 52 questions and answers. This devotional makes each of those questions/answers a daily devotional that contains Scripture, short section from a modern evangelical leader, as well as another short section from historical church leaders. I found this devotional very challenging as well as refreshing for my faith.
Another book I recently read that I chose not to review was Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray. I’m currently reading Pleasing People by Lou Priolo and Kingdom Come by Sam Storms.
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.
Seeking Allah Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. This book is the story of how a devote Muslim came to faith in Christ. Qureshi walks the reader through his journey of moving from a Muslim who adamantly argued against Christianity to someone who finds that Christianity is actually true. Qureshi’s story was an encouraging and enjoyable read. His story shows the power of the Gospel and effectiveness of Christians loving unbelievers and dialoging with them about their faith. Qureshi also writes this book in a way that helps the reader understand the basic ideas of Isalm. He includes definitions and explanations for most Islamic words and sayings he uses throughout the book. The reader comes away from this book not only informed about Qureshi’s faith journey but also the beliefs behind the Islamic faith.
Know Doubt by John Ortberg. Doubt is not the opposite of faith or unbelief. Doubt can and many times does coexist with faith. This is what Ortberg argues in this book, which was previously titled Faith and Doubt. In this book Ortberg helps the reader understand how many times doubts come with true faith. He even admits some of his own. Unfortunately this isn’t the norm in most Christian circles. Doubt is seen as something we should suppress and not bring up. This leaves many Christians sinking in their doubt and wondering if they even have any true faith to begin with. This book helps Christians see that doubts are not always bad (even though it can go bad – that’s the subject of chapter 8) and many times is a part of growing and experiencing true faith. My favorite part of this book was chapter 3 where Ortberg explains what philosopher Michael Novak calls three different kinds of convictions – public, private, and core. This chapter as well as the rest of the book was fantastic. I’d recommend this book to both Christians and skeptics.
Saved Without a Doubt by John MacArthur. Similar to the book above, this book deals with the issue of doubt. This book however focuses specifically on doubt in regards to salvation. MacAthur believes many true believers lack assurance of their salvation (page 9-10). With a very pastoral and shepherding tone, MaArthurs spends his time in this book helping Christians understand the security of their salvation and how they can know for sure if they have experienced true salvation. My favorite part of this book was part 2 where MacArthur shares eleven tests from 1 John that can be used to evaluate the genuineness of your salvation. Overall this was a solid book on the subject of doubt and the assurance of salvation. I’d recommend them book to anyone who has or is struggling with this issue.
Next up on my reading list is Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson.