What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (from October 2017 through December 2017)
What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading
(from October 2017 through December 2017)
Beale, G.K., The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: 1-2 Thessalonians. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003.
This was a nice overview of the Thessalonian correspondence. I consulted it from time to time. However, it suffers from both a lack of detail in some areas and possibly accommodates the author’s position a little too much. The book’s strength was that Beale has an amillennial perspective. As his eschatology was his leading feature it led to the detriment of the overall point of Paul’s letters. I think I can say I prefer Beale’s individual books over his commentary.
Begg, Alistair. Christmas Playlist: Four Songs that Bring You to the Heart of Christmas. Good Book Company, 2016.
I love to listen to Alistair Begg preach. He never fails to stir my affection towards God. And this small book are his written sermons based upon four hymns from the Christmas story; Mary’s song, Zechariah’s song, The Angel’s song, and Simeon’s song. The book is meant to be an introduce to non-believers the person of Jesus Christ and why he is the savior of the world. I have to confess this book didn’t resonate with me. It may have more to do with Begg’s sermon style being transferred into print, but it tries to be a bit too clever. And as such, I am not sure I would recommend it to non-believers. Of course, having rockstar, Alice Cooper, recommend the book with a blurb on the back cover will grab your attention.
Carder, Gary. The Anatomy of An Affair: How affairs, attractions & addictions develop and how to guard your marriage against them. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017.
Gary Carder is a well-known Christian counselor who works primarily with adultery recovery with married couples. His book Torn Asunder is the standard on the subject within Christian circles. In this book, Carder uses his forty years of counseling experience to reveal what leads to marital infidelity. His conclusions are both shocking and hard to argue against. It is frightening to think how susceptible our marriages might be to affairs if we do not protect them properly. I am thankful for this ‘wake up’ call. But I do struggle with Carder’s applications. He has written the book for a secular audience and seems to avoid using scripture. Even though most (though not all) of his applications can be found in the Bible, he chooses not to quote from it. I would counter that it is the promises of God that are foundational keep one from becoming obsessed with marital failure. It is only by our dependence upon God that our marriages have hope of lasting or being restored if broken. While his examination of how affairs begin is helpful, I have some reservation in recommending this book lest a reader become overly focused on the symptoms rather than solutions.
Cummings, Asa. A Memoir of the Rev. Edward Payson, D.D. New York: American Tract Society, 1829.
On my recent trip to Maine, I decided to read the biography of Edward Payson (1783-1827). Payson ministered in Portland for 20 years and was an influential pastor during the Second Great Awakening. He was also the father of Elizabeth Prentiss, the famous hymn writer. I was greatly moved by the example Payson set in his ministry. If there is one attribute that was consistent, it was his humility. He was a man who was greatly aware of his sin and aware of the honor it was to serve his Lord. His prayer life was truly exemplary. I made several notations throughout the book in the hopes that I might improve my own ministry. Cummings writes in a typical 19th century manner, but the story is convicting and well worth the effort.
Emlet, Michael R. Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2017.
Michael Emlet is a faculty member at CCEF in Philadelphia. Prior to receiving that position, he also practiced as a family physician. He brings a wealth of knowledge to the debate of how much (or if any) of modern psychiatry should be acceptable to a Biblical counselor. This is a short book designed for lay leaders to get them to think Biblically about the subject. Emlet cautions both sides of the debate. Biblical Counselors should pay attention to what is happening within ‘secular’ practices. There is much benefit in doing so. And there are some cases where medication is appropriate in the treating of certain pathologies. But he also warns that the interpretation of data through a scriptural worldview is vital to healing those we wish to help. Some therapies can be harmful to meeting the needs of the whole person. They only address symptoms rather than the heart. Only God’s design for our lives as portrayed in scripture will truly benefit the patient. Emlet presents a very reasoned argument from a knowledgeable perspective. I am grateful for his book.
Dever, Mark. God and Politics: Jesus’ Vision for Society, State and Government. Youngstown, OH: 10Publishing, 2017.
When I lived in England, I had a friend send me an email saying that he had just heard Mark Dever deliver the best sermon on Government he had ever heard. I downloaded the sermon and I agreed with his assessment. I am glad to see that Dever took the opportunity to publish that message in this book. Dever argues that when Jesus said, ‘give back to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s’ that it is was a statement beyond avoiding a pharisaical trap, but also our Lord’s endorsement of government (though not necessarily a full endorsement of the Roman government). The printed version has been slightly expanded. But it is still short enough for someone to read in about an hour. The book will not answer all your questions, but it is a reasonable starting place to understand God’s purpose for the state in our lives.
The ESV Reader’s Bible. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011.
This year as I read through the entire Bible, I used this edition. The Reader’s Bible removes all headings, references and study notes. It also eliminates all verse numbers and only provides chapter numbers on the side. The idea is that one would read the text of scripture as one might read them in the autographs. The goal is that the Spirit would direct the reader without any other outside influences. I am not sure that I gleaned very many new insights from reading the Bible in this manner. I did find myself reading entire narratives rather than just stopping because that is where the headings or chapter ended. But when I got to the prophets, I desired to know more what particular phrases and time periods were references. If anything, reading the Bible in this manner made me very grateful for the solid Biblical scholarship available to the modern reader. It made me very aware of how someone could misread scripture for their own purposes. While I am glad I read the Bible all the way through in this way, it is not likely to be an exercise that I repeat.
Geiger, Eric and Kevin Peck. Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development. Nashville: B& H Publishing, 2016.
The thesis is simple. God has called Christians to be leaders in the world. We are to lead people toward Christ. Therefore, discipleship is leadership development as disciples how to become disciple-makers. While Geiger and Peck draw from many modern-day leadership sources, everything is viewed within a Biblical scope. They make a very convincing argument and provide helpful advice for leadership development in the Church. By far this is one of the best book on Christian leadership that I have read.
Getty, Keith & Kristyn Getty. Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family and Church. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2017.
This book is not meant to be an academic tome, but a primer to the average Christian about the place of music in the life of the Church. And in that, it serves its purpose very well. Over ten brief chapters the Gettys argue the importance of what we sing and why we sing are truly matters of the heart. ‘Your voice may not be of professional standard’, writes Keith, ‘but it is of confessional standard.’ This is an easy read and highly practical. It might serve as a text for a future Sunday School on the spiritual discipline of music.
Kraft, Dave. Mistakes Leaders Make. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
Kraft has served at parachurch organizations and on church staffs for the last thirty years. He brings a wealth of experience to this book as he uses a fictional scenario of a multi-staffed church to share where things went wrong and how they were corrected. He brings to bare ten areas where those in church leadership are likely to stumble; allowing ministry to replace Jesus, allowing comparing to replace contentment, allowing pride to replace humility; allowing people pleasing to replace pleasing God, allowing busyness to replace visioning, allowing financial frugality to replace fearless faith, allowing artificial harmony to replace difficult conflict, allowing perennially hurting people to replace potential hungry leaders, allowing information to replacing transformation and allowing control to replace trust. The titles of the chapters almost speak for themselves. I have witnessed these problems in others and struggles with a few myself. I found myself highlighting several sentences throughout my reading. This book was a good reminder of what effective leadership in the church is meant to be.
Morris, Leon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians. Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s Publishing, 1959.
I have always been impressed with Leon Morris’ scholarship. I particularly enjoy his commentary on Galatians. His books on the cross and the atonement are outstanding. But I have to confess, I found this commentary somewhat lacking. When it came to the more difficult matters I was seeking an answer, Morris was not very helpful and in some cases silent (which may have been more a sign of the challenges during his time rather than the present day). I found Bruce and Wannamaker to be of greater assistance.
Selvaggio, Anthony. A Proverbs Driven Life: Timeless Wisdom for your Words, Work, Wealth and Relationships. Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd’s Press, 2011.
I am preparing to preach through Proverbs next year. One idea is to preach through the book topically. Selvaggio did so and published his sermons in this volume. I wanted to see how he did so. Of course, it hah its advantages and disadvantages. Selvaggio shows that it is almost impossible to cover a subject comprehensively in a single sermon (or chapter in this case). But I did appreciate his insights into a few areas.
Walvoord, John, The Thessalonian Epistles: Bible Study Commentary. Grand Rapids: Lamplighter Publications, 1958.
Perhaps I could take the same words from the Beale commentary and apply them here, with the exception that Walvoord is a dispensationalist. He presents his outlook to the detriment of other areas of Thessalonians. His eschatology dominates the book to the point that he too misses out on Paul’s overall purpose for the letters.
Wannamaker, Charles. New International Greek Testament Commentary: Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Eerdman’s Publishing, Grand Rapids, 1990.
D.A. Carson still considers this to be the best commentary on the Thessalonian correspondence. I can see why. Wannamaker takes a rhetorical approach to Pauls’ letters. He provides keen historical analysis and stays true to the text of scripture. And while I don’t agree with his argument that 2 Thessalonians preceded 1 Thessalonians, it does not interfere with the overall quality of scholarship. It is an outstanding work. I found this to be my ‘go to’ commentary when working through our sermon series. Casual readers beware, this is an academic and technical commentary. Wannamaker takes time to deal with all the major arguments concerning the text. This will not please those that just want to know ‘what does this verse mean.’