Top 10 books of 2017

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I have read over 60 books this year and reviewed 58 books and of the new books that have been published in this past year this is my top ten list. Being a pastor a lot of my reading is in the direction of pastoral ministry and preaching. Last year’s list of top books can be found here.

  1. Revitalize by Andy Davis
  2. Walking through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis
  3. Church series: Life of the Church, Heart of the Church, Character of the Church by Joe Thorn
  4. Preaching in the New Testament by Jonathan Griffiths
  5. Preaching as Reminding by Jeffrey D. Arthurs
  6. Portraits of a Pastor edited by Jason Allen
  7. Pray about Everything by Paul Tautges
  8. Pastoral Theology by Daniel Akin and R. Scott Pace
  9. Progress in the Pulpit by Jim Shaddix and Jerry Vines
  10. Encountering God Through Expository Preaching by Ryan Fullerton, Jim Scott Orick, and Brian Payne
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CSB Spurgeon Study Bible: A Review

CSB Spurgeon Study Bible edited by Alistair Begg

This study Bible is one of many that have come out since the publication of the Christian Standard Bible which is the successor to the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Whether your looking to switch to the CSB or not this is a useful study Bible to have on hand.

Overall the CSB is a good translation that strives for fidelity and clarity. I would put it right alongside the ESV and the NASB. What sets this study Bible apart are two features. First the study notes are drawn from the preaching ministry of Spurgeon himself meaning the study notes are theologically rich and devotional in character. The second feature is that the book includes entire sermon outlines from the recently published first volume of The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon. 

If you have been encouraged by the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon this is definitely a study Bible to consider purchasing. It would also make a great Christmas present for any Spurgeon lover.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Christmas: A reminder of the goodness of creation

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Sometimes as Christians we can adopt an attitude that despises or neglects the goodness of God’s creation. For many there understanding of the created order begins with the fall and misses God’s declaration that everything that he created was good.

In her forthcoming book Love Thy Body author Nancy Pearcey points to the hope of creation when she says the following in the first chapter, “Finally, at the end of time, all creation will be restored and renewed by God’s grace. The Bible speaks of salvation using terms like restore, renew, redeem—all of which imply a recovery of something that was originally good.”

Christmas tells the story of how God has begun the rescue of restoring, renewing, and redeeming creation.  This was done by the Word, which was God, becoming flesh. God displays the dignity of humanity and his love for creation in coming into his creation to rescue fallen humanity and redeem his creation from the curse.

Christmas reminds us that while creation is not the ultimate reality it is a good reality. A good and beautiful gift given by God not to be despised or rejected.

Walking Through Twilight : A Review

Walking Through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis

Douglas Groothuis’s memoir regarding his wife’s dementia is poignant one. Groothuis speaks from the heart concerning his wife’s decline. This is a book that deserves to stand alongside C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed.

Through this book Groothuis is full honest with the full range of his reaction to his wife’s condition. He describes the eeriness of dementia and the chaos that comes with it. He speaks to the temptation to hate God that comes with such terrible suffering. The seventh chapter of the book which addresses lamenting and mourning should be required reading for every Christian. After quoting the command in Romans to mourn with those who mourn Groothuis states, “Mourning rightly is a rare skill and one that cannot be cultivated without the sacrifice of one’s ego on behalf of another soul and God. Any hospital chaplain worth having must develop this art of sympathy and empathy. But we are all chaplains in the hospice of life (p. 60).” Meaning that we all must learn to sacrifice our ego in order to cultivate the the sympathy and empathy that others will need from us. At the end Groothuis points to what keeps him going the love of a crucified Savior who still bears the scars.

This book reminds readers that even if one knows all the right answers regarding evil and suffering, as the author does, the pains of life are still very much real and felt. In our feel good age I think everyone would benefit from reading memoirs like this one. It’s a difficult read, as you are observing the heart ache of a man who’s wife is losing her ability to communicate and interact with the world. We need honest testimony like this in book form and in the church. Too often people find the church a terrible place when they are walking through twilight. Of all the books I have read this year this book has impacted me the most.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Your Marriage God’s Mission: A Review

Your Marriage God’s Mission by Clint and Penny A. Bragg

In a day where expectations of marriage and commitment to it Clint and Penny Bragg have written a book to help Christian couples go against the flow. The main premise that the marriage relationship requires a missions orientation, that God has given couples gifting and passions which are part of God’s calling.

The first section addresses the importance of having a marriage mission and how to form a marriage mission statement. The second section addresses how couples can pursue spiritual disciplines together. The third section addresses practical steps in pursuing mission in marriage. The fourth section addresses aspects of spiritual warfare in marriage. The final section addresses evaluating and assessing the marriage mission.

This book removes all grounds for a selfish understanding of marriage. I would commend this book to any couple who is married or considering marriage as it sets the bar high for couples.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Evidence that Demands a Verdict: A Review

Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World by [McDowell, Josh, McDowell, Sean]

Evidence that Demands a Verdict

As someone who believes in the importance of apologetics for the ministry of the local church I was happy to see that the classic Evidence that Demands a Verdict has been updated and republished for a new generation of readers.

The first addition of this book was of great importance as it brought apologetic resources and information to people when there was very limited access to information as Josh McDowell notes in the introduction. I would argue while there is greater access to information because of the internet that a resource like this is still needed as a lot of the information even and especially in the area of apologetics is false and fabricated. One only needs to scroll Facebook a few minutes to find a defense of Christianity based on false information, take for example the fake photos of giant skeletons that often make the rounds. I we are to defend the faith we must be certain that the evidence we use is truthful and not fabricated.

In this book Josh and Sean McDowell address the key apologetic battle fields. They make argue for a theistic universe and demonstrate the inadequacies of other explanations for life, meaning, consciousness, and free will. They address the issues regarding the Bibles reliability, transmissions, and the unreliable nature of the Gnostic writings and other non-biblical texts. They address the historicity and deity of Christ addressing many of the myths that are propagated by skeptics on documentaries. The reliability of and historicity of the Old Testament is defended. The authors in the closing chapters do a great job in addressing the challenges that arise from modern skepticism and post-modernity. The book closes with an appendix addressing the work of Bart Ehrman and addresses the weaknesses in his objections to biblical Christianity.

I am sure many pastors will add this book to their libraries as a reference. I would hope that lay members would add this resource to their family libraries. If you’re a parent consider the fact that when your child goes off to college they will be challenged with almost all if not all the objections the authors address in this book. By going over this book with your children before their faith is challenged you can give them the resources to contend for and hold on to their faith through their college years. If you know lost people, which you do, you are dealing with people who believe the objections to Christianity are stronger than the evidence for it this book demonstrates that the opposite is true.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Preaching as Reminding: A Review

Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness by [Arthurs, Jeffrey D.]

Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness by Jeffrey D. Arthurs

While there are many good books written on the subject of preaching of them are rather unremarkable and fail to leave a lasting impression. Preaching as Reminding is both a good book and a remarkable one and I believe will leave a lasting impression on the preaching ministry of those who read it.

The basic premise of the book is that one of the primary roles of the preacher is that of remembrancer a title derived from Lancelot Andrewes sermon “Remember Lot’s wife.” As Arthurs notes in his introduction the role of stirring memory through preaching receives little attention although there many examples of that very role in Scripture. Arthurs states, “Ministers must serves as the Lord’s remembrancers because things learned can be buried, lost, amputated, or corrupted (p. 6).” In the first three chapters of the book Arthurs fleshes out a biblical theology of memory. In chapters one and two the importance and meaning of God remembering is developed. In the second our forgetfulness and the way to remember are addressed. In the third chapter Arthurs begins to address the role of preaching in stirring memory. Andrews makes the statement, “In a sense, all biblical preaching is in the context of a worship service is an act of reminding (pp. 48-49).” Andrews proceeds to argue the importance of memory in stirring the affection. In the closing chapters Arthurs draws out the implications of the importance of memory in the areas of style, the use of story, delivery, and ceremony and symbol in the context of preaching and worship.

I think Arthurs makes a sound case for the importance of stirring memory in the preaching of the word. His chapters on style on delivery have been truly helpful to me in thinking through and evaluating my preaching ministry. I would commend this book to all those called to be preachers called to be the Lord’s remembrancers.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Never Settle for Normal -A Review

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Never Settle for Normal

Jonathan Parnell addresses the core desires of the human heart and faithfully shows how Christ is the answer to the longings of the heart.

In the early chapters of this book begins with the basics of God our fallen condition. Drawing from Romans, Parnell shows how we as fallen sinners have suppressed, stolen and supplanted the truth of God’s glory for lies. Lies that we are all to quick to accept and spread. In the following chapters  Parnell points us to Jesus, who he is an what he has done to rescue us from the penalty of sin and death and in exchange calling us to life of joy and significance.

Parnell’s writing is thoroughly biblical and Augustinian in its outlook. Reading it one cannot help remember Augustine’s famous quote from Confessions “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” As Parnell demonstrates there is no rest, no joy, and no significance outside of life in and with Christ, a life that proves to be anything but normal.

If you know someone trying to better understand Christianity this would be a great book to put in their hands.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Irenaeus of Lyons (Christian Biographies for Young Readers) -A Review

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Irenaeus of Lyons (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)

The best test of whether a children’s book is any good is whether children actually like it, this book has been tested and it has passed the test. I have spent the past week reading this book to my two boys (ages 4 and 5) at bed time reading a chapter a day.

Simonetta Carr does a good job of describing the historical context in which Irenaeus ministered and the challenges he faced. Given the current course of our society it is a good time to introduce young readers to courageous Christian leaders who faithfully ministered and contended for the truth during times of persecution. An added bonus is the extra facts given at the end of the book which helps give a better understanding for the Roman world.

I would encourage parents to get this book and read it along with their kids. While we might be tempted to shelter from the harsh realities of persecution that Christians have experienced in the past and do experience throughout the world we should teach them about examples of faithfulness which this book does.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Portraits of a Pastor -A Review

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Portraits of A Pastor: The 9 Essential Roles of a Church Leader

While there are many books on pastoral ministry most focus in on one aspect or roll of the pastor. Jason Allen has brought together a group of contributors to to give a well rounded understanding of pastoral ministry.

This book addresses the pastor in his role as shepherd, husband & father, preacher, theologian, church historian,  evangelist, missionary, leader, and man of God. The contributors all derive their understanding of the roles of the pastor from the instruction and examples found throughout the pages of Scripture.

In my opinion the three most significant chapters in this book are Strachan’s chapter on the pastor as a theologian, George’s on the pastor as a church historian, and Whitney’s on the pastor as man of God. These chapters help address and correct current problems in the understanding of the role of the pastor. Many pastors are theologically anemic an suffer from ecclesial amnesia, they have neglected life giving sound doctrine and are ignorant of the great cloud of witnesses that have come before. Whitney’s chapter is the most important because if a pastor takes to heart what it means to be a man of God  all the other roles found in this book will most likely come into practice in the pastor’s ministry.

I would recommend this book to any pastor I know and would encourage church members to get this book for their pastor.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.