What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (from October 2018 through December 2018)
What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (from October 2018 through December 2018)
Anon. Proverbs: The 17:18 Series. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2011.
This was a Christmas gift to me from Laura Hogue. The inspiration is from Deuteronomy 17:18 where the Hebrew king was to write out the law of God. Reformation Heritage has produced a journal to do this with each book of the Bible. I worked this into my devotional time writing out 5-8 verses each day. As you write out the text, there are questions that help you think about the concepts within the verses. It took about four months to complete the whole book of Proverbs. I highly encourage doing this as it was a good discipline and kept Proverbs fresh on my mind.
Bacote. Vincent. The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life. Grand Rapid: Zondervan, 2015.
I love books that are brief, to the point, and very helpful. They usually become useful tools to give to others. This is one of those books. I met Vince at a recent conference. I was impressed with his scholarship and decided to purchase one of his books. I am very glad I did. He has written a wonderful brief on the importance of Christian engagement in politics based upon the creation mandate. But not only that, he addresses how Christians should engage. Vince has found words to express ideas that I have been struggling with for years. His final chapter about the need to persevere is brilliant. I plan on implementing his suggestions myself. This is definitely going into my arsenal of quality books on important topics.
Baer, Michael A. Business as Mission: The Power of Business in the Kingdom of God. Seattle: YWAM Publishing, 2006.
Michael Baer has created a discipleship program with an emphasis on using business as a means of reaching the unreached. I began reading this in preparation for my trip to Asia, but realized it wasn’t quite what I needed at that moment. I set it down only to return to it later. I am intrigued by Baer’s ideas, even though the book is 12 years old. Baer sees no distinction between the sacred and secular. He believes that business is one of the pillars of society and that we should be using it to transform our culture. He examines corporate strategy, leadership, and what really profits a company. I have been challenged in my thinking on this subject, even if the writing is a little inconsistent. I would love to use this book as a means of dialogue with business leaders in our community.
Chester, Tim. You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.
I have to admit, I was very skeptical when I picked up this book due to the title. It makes it seem like we have the power within ourselves to change. But that is not the authors intent. He demonstrates that it is because of Christ that we can change and must change (if we are truly saved). The strength of the book is identifying the lies that keep us from seeking to model our lives like Jesus and then helping the reader to embrace the truth instead. The book is a wonderful teaching device and has great reflection questions at the end of each chapter. I plan on making this my primary text for discipling people with deeply rooted sin. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Colson, Charles, Peter Lillback, Wayne Grudem, & Philip Ryken. Biblical Perspectives on Business Ethics: How the Christian Worldview has Shaped Our Economic Foundations. Basking Ridge, NJ: Center for Christian Business Ethics, 2013.
This is a collection of essays presented at a business ethics conference that took place in Philadelphia 2010. The purpose was to show that economies best flourish under a distinctly Christian world view and why it must continue to influence modern businesses. There was not much here that I had not read previously, but it did provide a nice overview of the varied topics.
Crocker, H.W. The Yanks Are Coming! A Military History of the United States in World War I. Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2014.
I typically try to read a volume in honor of veterans around the time of Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day. It gives me a greater appreciation for those that sacrificed so much for the nation in which I live. I had mentioned to Randy Cox that I was deficient on my knowledge of World War I. He remedied that problem by allowing me to borrow this book. Crocker begins by providing a general overview of the causes of the Great War followed by the United States participation in the later battles. Then he devotes biographical chapters to the key American soldiers of the war from ‘Black Jack’ Pershing to Sargent Alvin York as well as those that would emerge from the war to play pivotal parts in WWII such as George Patton and George Marshall. He concludes the book with an overview of post-war events during the Treaty of Versailles. The author takes a distinct conservative stance (from a political perspective). I will still reserve judgment for some of his bolder assessments from that angle. However, this was a very good overview written in a readable format. I am grateful that Randy let me borrow it.
Davis, Dale Ralph. Focus on the Bible Commentary: 1 Kings: The Wisdom & The Folly. Fearn: Christian Focus, 2013.
I love Dale Ralph Davis. He never fails to teach me something. He has an easy way of writing that sounds like he is speaking directly to you. And he weaves wonderful anecdotes to illustrate his points. This commentary is no different. I was surprised that he was able to get through an overview of 1 Kings within twenty-nine chapters. The primary focus of the book is on the failed kings of Israel (after all, there were more of them). And of course, the theme is the same- to obey and follow Yahweh is wisdom, but to disobey is folly. This is a great introduction to 1 Kings. I do wish there was a little more interaction with scholarship in this volume. But it was a valuable read none the less.
Ferguson, Sinclair. Child in the Manger: The True Meaning of Christmas. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2015.
In the final quarter of the year, I try to read a book on the incarnation of Christ as I prepare for the Christmas season. This year was no different. And seeing that Sinclair Ferguson is one of my favorite preachers, this selection was a ‘no-brainer’. He did not fail to disappoint. I would gather that this is a collection of ten sermons that the author preached over the Christmas season. There is not a singular thread that runs throughout each other than the topic of our Lord’s Advent. There are some beauties here that nourished me. It was just an off-hand remark that Ferguson made about Joseph’s life revolving around Jesus that inspired my recent sermon on the same topic. If you are looking for a book to lift your heart during the Christmas season, then I commend this one to you.
Helm, David. Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014.
The 9Marks series are written to introduce important topics regarding the church to new believers. But I have found they are just as helpful for those who have been in the faith for many years and still have an unhealthy perspective on a given subject. What is supposed to happen in the pulpit has been lost for an entire generation. The sermon is not just a self-help moment or even just a teaching time. It is the presentation of the very words of God. David Helm has provided a useful primer on expositional preaching. He reminds of the importance of contextualization of the hearer without losing the exegesis that must be done in the sermon preparation. Which is the valid argument for preaching verse by verse through individual books of the Bible This small volume is good for the preacher as well as for the listener.
Henry, Matthew (edited and revised by O. Palmer Robertson). A Way to Pray. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2010.
I have had this volume on my shelf for a few years. I read a book on prayer each year and this was my selection for 2018, but again I put it off until the last quarter of the year. I took it with me on a little overnight retreat and by the Lord’s providence it was the perfect balm for my soul. The entire 350+ pages are prayers that Matthew Henry composed. Robertson has updated the 18th-century language to make them more readable in contemporary language. Each prayer was a delight to read and very scriptural. If you think Matthew Henry is a great commentator, you will be even more impressed with his prayer book. I highly recommend this book for those that wish to heighten their spirituality.
Howard, Jeremy. You’re the Husband: A Blueprint for Leading in Marriage. Greenville, SC: Ambassador International, 2017.
I heard that Alistair Begg told a friend that he would personally break his legs if he wrote a book before he was 40 years old. Of course, he meant it in jest. There is wisdom in not trying to write advice for others until you have more experience. So, I read this book with some fear and trepidation. Howard is under age thirty and writing about marriage. There is much of his advice that I winced at- along with a few times that he took scripture out of context (however, for the particular passages in which he did they were common mistakes). But as an author, his audience is to men his own age- mainly newly married men. His advice to these men is it is now time to set aside childish things, grow up and step up to be the spiritual leaders in their homes that scripture teaches them to be. Perhaps that admonishment comes better from a peer rather than someone older. For that he is to be commended. I could recommend the book for that purpose. But I would hesitate to place it in the hands of an older married man.
Marr, Johnny. Set the Boy Free. New York: Harper Collins, 2016.
This is the autobiography of the legendary guitarist, Johnny Marr. For those unaware, Marr was the founder of the alternative rock band, the Smiths. He is only 54 years old, so I was surprised that his autobiography was over 400 pages (with an index I might add!). It seemed a little pretentious and at times, it is. But Marr does the right thing by focusing on the music. Not only do we have the history of the Smiths and the authors musical influences, we get glimpses of his work with the Talking Heads, Pretenders, Modest Mouse, The The and the Cribbs. It is wonderful to read about the process of inspiration when writing music. He doesn’t really give too much insight as to why the Smiths broke up. There are hints throughout that he would be willing to reunite, but Morrissey is unwilling. Like most in the rock music industry, there is much drug use. Marr claims to be both clean and sober now, but he doesn’t speak out against what got him there. Sadly, while an accomplished musician, it is clear he is still seeking something that will satisfy his soul.
Reynolds, Adrian. And So to Bed …: A Biblical View of Sleep. Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2014.
I enjoyed this book. It is short (great for reading before bed) and very practical. But good advice to sleep aid is not all it does. It also offers a theology for sleep. Sometimes our lack of sleep reveals our restlessness in God. The author writes, ‘Our Sovereign God may be using our waking to teach us a truth, give us a burden [as in praying for another] or- and this is perhaps the least comfortable option- to address a sin.’ We also fret over our lack of control in the world and faith in God. To that end, Reynolds says, ‘if we go to sleep as Christian, we go to sleep as having everything.’ That is truth that is needed. And then there are times God wants us to deal more with our reaction to lack of sleep rather than sleeping itself. If you like rest, want rest, or need to rest then this is a book for you.
Swallow- Prior, Karen. Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2014.
Hannah More (1745-1833) is little known today, but in her time, she was a literary celebrity. She was well- acquainted with the aristocracy in London and endeared friends with the likes of Samuel Johnson and the actor, David Garrick. But when More became saved, she used her literary talents to engage in Evangelical activism- chief among the was the abolition of the slave trade. Swallow-Prior has done an outstanding job of presenting a popular biography of More. The author is a professor of English at Liberty University and her interest lie more in More’s literary achievements. But I would have liked to have seen more research with the primary sources rather than just secondary sources. But overall, I am grateful for Mrs. Prior resurrecting the memory this personage of whom was a close friend of William Jay! [Side note- Mrs. Prior is friends with our own Janet Cox. I was delighted when Janet gave me this book as a gift. She was unaware of my interests in More].
Traeger, Sebastian & Greg Gilbert. The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.
I was given this book at the T4G conference over four years ago. I just picked it up to read in preparation for the business wisdom in Proverbs. The Lord has a way of placing the right tool in your hands at the right time. Sebastien Traeger is an entrepreneur who has written this book (with his pastor Greg Gilbert) for those in the workforce. He makes the key point that it was God’s original design that human beings would work and find pleasure in doing so. But we are not to seek our satisfaction in our vocation, but in God. Gilbert and Traeger help the reader navigate the balance between to the two. Having our minds set on Christ helps one excel in the work place, both in relationships and productivity. I think a business leader would read this and say, ‘finally, a book that was written for me’. I highly recommend it.