Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Max. I picked this little book up when I ran across it at a used bookstore. It was a short and easy read that served as a great reminder to keep the Gospel at the center of my teaching. This book focuses its attention less on corporate preaching of Scripture and more on teaching Scripture in a classroom or small group setting. Someone who has formal training in studying Scripture and teaching it may not benefit a whole lot from this book but those who are volunteers in the church and may not have any formal training would do well to read it. It will help them get the basic tools they need to prepare and teach Scripture in a classroom or small group setting.
The End of Me by Kyle Idleman. I read this book in preparation for a series I’m doing through the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve always enjoyed Idleman’s books so was excited to not only read this one in prep for the sermon series but also to spend some time in another one of his books. The first half of this book deals with four specific beatitudes found in the opening section of the Sermon on the Mount. Idleman, with the help of these specific beatitudes, show that the path to true life is found in coming to the end of ourselves. The second part of this book then explains how being at the end of ourselves is actually the best spot to be in because it’s there we experience God and His work flowing through us the most. In reality this book didn’t end up helping me a ton in my sermon prep but I really enjoyed what it had to offer for my own walk with Jesus. I’d encourage you to read this one and see how coming to the end of yourself is the best place to experience the true blessings of God.
I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown. This is by far my favorite book I have read this year. Understanding racial issues and seeking racial reconciliation is one of my passions so anytime I can read a book on this topic from a person of color I’m excited. In this book Austin shares her own journey of being a black female in a very white American culture. She shares about how this tension has played itself out in the past as a child and college student but then also shares how it’s still playing out at work and even at church. She is open, real, and honest as she shares about her own struggles and frustrations. She doesn’t just call our whiteness out (which I’m glad she does) but she also calls us up to a better place. A place of love, dignity, and honor towards our brothers and sisters of color. There were moments while reading this book I was angry, there were moments when I was sad, there were moments I was convicted, and there were moments I was broken. It was a wild ride but one that was good for me to take. I’d high encourage everyone, especially my fellow white Christian Americans, to read this book.
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.
God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker. The transgender issue is a popular one in our culture right now. It’s not only a highly debated topic among people but is also becoming a normal part of our culture. From things like gender-nuetral bathrooms to more and more people adopting the transgender lifestyle and the necessary changes that takes. This issue isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. To be fair, this isn’t a topic I’m very familiar with and so far I haven’t done a lot of reading on it. That’s the reason I picked up this book and gave it a read. In this helpful book, Walker helps the reader understand what God says through His Word about the issue of gender identity. Before he dives into any Scripture he does a great job at setting up the book with a few helpful chapters on remembering that Jesus loved people (and we should too regardless of where they stand on this issue), tracing history to see how we got to where we are in our culture, and also defining the terms that go along with gender identity and associated issues. After all this Walker walks through the Biblical narrative of creation, fall, and redemption to show how being transgender and pursuing such doesn’t fit within God’s original design. He writes from an evangelical position that believes the Bible is God’s inspired Word and carries ultimate authority so his conclusion may not be the same as others who do not hold to this same view of the Bible. He ends the book with a few practical chapters on things like how should the church should respond, how parents should respond, and how Christians in general should respond. This was a very helpful book and I’d encourage anyone who wants to understand this issue better to read it.
United by Trilla Newbell. I recently came to two conclusion – I don’t read enough books written by women and I don’t read enough books written by people of color. In an effort to change that I picked this book up after my wife read it and spoke very highly of it. This little book is both a personal story as well as practical guide to pursuing racial unity within the body of Christ. In her own words, Newbell says this near the beginning of her book: “I’ll share about the beauty of diversity that can be on display to a broken world. We will look at my life as a black female and how God fulfilled a desire of my heart through friendships. I will encourage you to know the benefits of being united in Christ both practically and relationship and the mutual growth acquired through fellowshipping with those different from you” (page 20). I really enjoyed reading your own story as well as learning from many of the practical points she brought up throughout the book. I’d encourage anyone (especially those of us who are white) to read this book and pursue racial diversity in our churches.
Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age by Bob Cutillo. This is one of those books I started reading and was tempted to put down and not finish. Part of it was because the content was a bit different than I expected and what the content did present didn’t seem relevant to me. However, I’m a big fan of finishing books and making myself read outside my comfort zone. I’m glad I did because it turned out to be an excellent book. In this book Cutillo dives into modern health care and how we as a society are viewing and going about our health. He rightly points out we have become somewhat obsessive over it and with new technology are tempted to think we are in control of our health. Throughout this book Cutillo points to the Gospel as the only answer in this life as well as the benefit of modern heath care when used properly. Two sections of this book really stand out to me as highlights. First, there is a few chapters on death. In those chapters Cutillo does a great job at showing us how we as Christians should face death. It’s part of life and we should embrace it as such while clinging to our hope in Christ. Secondly, there is a chapter on health being a community thing. In this chapter we see that proper health and health care can be found and facilitated within a community of people who love and acre for one another. As believers, this community is the church and we should be loving and caring for one another.
Another book I read recently that I chose not to review was Love Does by Bob Goff.
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.
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.