Books I’m Reading

Crosstalk by Mike Emlet

As a pastor, I counsel people with their problems on a regular basis. One of the challenges of this role is actually bringing all the contents of scripture to bear on the problems I encounter. Some passages of scripture do not seem to have immediate application to human problems. So, Crosstalk offers a word of hope to pastor’s struggling to connect all of scripture to all of life. By reminding us of the “big story” of what God is doing in human history, Emlet helps us think in broader categories than just the problem under discussion in any given counseling situation. So far I am enjoying this book immensely!

Read: Finished (Jan.19, 2010)

Why Johnny Can’t Preach

I received this book for Christmas from my wife. Don’t worry, I asked for it, she was not hinting at any deficiencies. I must admit that much of what Gordon says resonates with me. The problem is trying to see his criticisms in my own preaching, instead of just in the preaching of others. His suggestion for an annual review of the pastor’s preaching is probably a good idea, if a little scary. Also his suggested helps to building a good sermon are helpful. This book is an easy read, being as the book is just under 100 pages. He seems a little “preachy” himself by times, Yet few could deny the problem he describes. I am at the section of the book where he tells us the problems with different types of preaching, and I must admit, I am reading that section with an open mind – and an eye to my own habits. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Read: Finished (January 22, 2010)

Death by Love written by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Wow! I started reading this book in November of 2008, and I finished it today! Needless to say it feels good to finally finish! The length of time it took me to read this book should be no reflection on its content. Driscoll and Breshears do a masterful job of weaving the cross into a variety of situations. This book has been helpful to me as I have observed how the gospel, the cross and the death of Jesus impact people from all walks of life. The premise of the book is simple. Mark, as the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle writes a series of letters to people he is counseling. From pedophiles to victims of abuse, Mark pulls no punches as he confronts people with the reality of their sin and the hope found in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Although the language is frank and firm, this book has a pastoral tone to it. I recommend you read it if you are having trouble relating the gospel to all of life, although if you can, you might try to read it faster than I have!

Read: Finished (January 26, 2010)

Finally Alive by John Piper

I received this book for Christmas, from my dear wife, who saw it on my wish list. Having just studied and preached through 1 John in our church, this book piqued my interest because it deals with a popular Johanine themes: The New Birth. Piper handles this theme with his usual thorough style, carefully unpacking a variety of texts and how they fit with John (the apostle’s) theology. I enjoyed this book. I admit to being disconnected a couple of times as I worked my way through the book. Near the end, I had trouble recalling the flow of the arguments from previous chapters, but thankfully, John (Piper that is) is a great one for reviewing concepts from previous chapters, so it wasn’t long before I was back on track. for anyone wanting to understand the new birth, and its implications in the life of a believer (the last chapter deals with this subject), I commend this book to your reading!  You won’t agree with everything, but you will find much here that will stimulate your soul and your mind. Anytime you find a book that accomplished those two things, you should read it!

Read: Finished (February 2, 2010)

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

This is Keller’s latest book, in a series of books that tackle the basics of the Christian faith, I picked it up quite inadvertently, as it sat in a lonely spot on my “need to read” bookshelf. I have to tell you however, that once I started reading I did not put the book down until I was finished. It is an excellent volume in every way. It’s an easy length, a good type font size and the message of the book packs a punch. Keller argues that the point of the prodigal son is in fact the elder son, and the text of scripture actually bears this out. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. In fact, I have now passed my copy on to another brother in Christ who I believe will profit from it as well. I hope that Tim continues to write and publish this kind of helpful volume.

Read: February 17, 2010

Addictions: A Banquet in a Grave by Ed Welch

This book was assigned reading for a seminary class I am taking entitled “Counseling Those with Disorders and Addictions.” I had read it a couple of years ago when a friend was struggling with an addiction issue, but I didn’t mind reading it again. Even if you aren’t struggling with an addiction yourself and even if you don’t know anyone struggling with and addiction, you should read this book. By the time you finish it, you will be able to see that you are struggling with an addiction and so are many around you. Welch broadens the definition and the label addict so it applies to anything we long after or desire that ensnares us and leads us away from God. I believe he calls it bondage. The books leads you through a description of addiction, implores you to reach out to addicts with the hope and healing that is found in Jesus. This book is not full of pat answers, it recognizes the deep struggle addicts face. But, it calls us to rest and trust in the One who brings true satisfaction. If you pick up any book on the subject of addictions, let this be the one!

Finished: February 20, 2010

Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching by Paul Wegner

If you look down the list of books I have read to this point in the year, you will notice that this book seems out of place. You might wonder why I am reading it. Well, I can tell you that this book was assigned reading for my Hebrew Syntax course. Not all assigned reading is bad, of course, and this book certainly wasn’t. Wegner’s premise is that those who study Old Testament Hebrew should recognize it’s value in preaching and should use the skill they have developed in the preparation of sermons. I can certainly see that Wegner has a point. Hebrew has been difficult for me. It has not been a joy and delight to learn, but rather a difficult and arduous task. So, I can see why a book is needed to encourage the Hebrew student to press on in his studies. I was encouraged through this book about the need to apply myself in diligent preparation for sermons. I can say with confidence, however that the average person reading this book would find it a wast of time. I think I will sit this book on my shelf next to my Hebrew bible, so whenever I glance at the BHS (the Hebrew Bible), I will be reminded of the need to take it down and put it to good use!

Finished: February 24, 2010

At The Altar of Sexual Idolatry by Steve Gallagher

I decided to read this book for a counseling course I am taking, and I’m glad I did. Written by Steve Gallagher, founder of Pure Life Ministries, this book is a useful tool in helping people understand the nature of sexual slavery and idolatry. I did find some of Steve’s theology a little hard to swallow, he seems to belie his pentecostal roots at places in the book, but the advantages of this book far outweigh any disadvantages. If you know someone struggling with sexual sin, this book is likely to be a help to them. Don’t let your desire to pass a blessing on to someone else, however, keep you from reading the book. Even if you are not enslaved to sexual sin, you will find Steve’s book a helpful read. I thought the book was a little long (294 pgs), and therefore slightly repetitive (reading that it was the revised and expanded edition on the front may explain this), but this hardly detracts from the message. Steve offers hope and help through the Word of God to the one who struggles. He does not psychologize the sinner, but calls him to repentance (chapter 12 is called: The Place of Brokenness and Repentance). Any book willing to make people admit their sin and seek help from God, His Word and His Church is a worthwhile read.

Finished: March 8, 2010.

The Family at Church by Joel R. Beeke

This brief book (only 77 pages) is a great help to anyone struggling with the hassles of getting kids ready to go to church. I’ve been there – no, I am there, trust me. Baths, hair combing, meals on time, everyone in the vehicle in the proper Christian attitude, etc. I know the struggles of getting a family ready and off to church. But, why do I do it. Sometimes I am anxious to be seen by others, I’ll admit it, but there is something deeper driving me, and those reasons are helpfully outlined in this book. I recommend it to your thoughtful reading. Listen to Beeke’s words and see if there isn’t something instructive here for you, “Do not engage in frivolous, worldly conversation after a sermon. Shallow talk about politics, people, sports or news is Satan’s way of sending vultures to pluck away the good seed of the word. Instead, talk about the Bible, Christ, the soul and the eternal word as it applies to the sermon.” Great advice from a great little book.

Finished: March 10, 2010.

Ready to Restore by Jay Adams

This book was a reading assignment for a counseling class I am currently taking at seminary. That doesn’t mean it was a boring read, however. Jay Adams has an engaging style of writing, and as the pioneer of Christian counseling, he is worth reading. I do find his attitude just a little too direct. He doesn’t allow for much wiggle room on his opinion and approaches. I guess, however, if I had written the book on Christian counseling I might not be flexible either. This books is brimming with practical tips for would-be counselors in the local church and I have already had opportunity to implement some of it in my own counseling practice.

Finished: March 20, 2010

The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

This book has the potential to mess with traditional forms and structures as it relates to the way we do church. And that’s a good thing. Marshall and Payne’s attempt to anchor church practice to New Testament principles is a refreshing relief from the typical church growth thinkers of the 80’s and 90’s. There is no market research here, no managerial principles designed for you to capitalize on your market share. This book is a straightforward approach to doing church the way the Bible says it should be done. I appreciated the forthright illustrations and suggestions. I was pleasantly surprised to find that we are doing some of the things this books suggested at our church already. I was also encouraged to find more we should be doing. I am always encouraged when I find room to grow. Hopefully, in the days and weeks ahead by God’s grace, our church will be able to implement some of the recommendations of this book.

Finished: May14, 2010

He is Not Silent by Al Mohler

I received this book for Christmas, but I did not get to read it over the holidays. But, when I did read it, I was not disappointed! Mohler’s clear defense of biblical preaching would be a great encouragement to any pastor’s heart. I was particularly intrigued by the contents of chapter 6, as I have been growing in my understanding of the Bible’s big story. As a dispensationalist, I am inclined to see discontinuity within the bible narratives, but I have recently been challenged and excited to see how the unity of the scripture – the big story of what God is up to – is also a truth which needs my reflection and consideration. Chapter six, entitled “Did Not Our hearts burn Within Us” is a refelction on the overarching theme of scirpture and its presentation. On page 92, Mohler says, “The Christian story is a metanarrative-a grand story that explains all other stories, and to which all other stories must answer.” This book, while written for a pastoral audience is accessible and readable and should be read by everyone!

Finished: May 29th, 2010

4 thoughts on “Books I’m Reading

  1. Pastor Hunter,
    Thanks for the overview of what your reading for work and for fun. As I mentioned in a short discussion, Keller’s “The Prodigal God” was very helpful. I would offer it to anyone who feels they can find God by themselves without the help of a body of believers. (I enjoyed your contrasts in the March 15 “How Do You View the Church?”.) The two compliment each other in the aspect of God’s purpose for a church.

    Along with my anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics books I’ve read Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. (Pastor John B. recommended it.) It is insightful and aids in wording out difficult conversations. (In the acknowledgments he gives credit ‘most importantly of all to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for all that I am’.)

    And, at the request of my daughter Rachel, I am reading the Cloud and Townsend’s “Boundaries” again. She feels I should learn the principles of the book to a higher level of application. I don’t mind trying to please her. One of the principles on page 222ff states that we cannot change by willpower alone. Willpower alone will most often fail in the long run and it is lonely. Addictions to whatever become worse with increased isolation and withdrawal. We need encouragement and grace FROM WITHOUT to move beyond our “addictions”.

    I should be getting sleep but I find it helpful every now and then to put my intuitions into words. Trust your getting rest at this late hour,

    Peter Ferris

  2. Pastor Hunter,
    Thanks for sharing these book reviews! I’m always nervous to spend money on a book that may or may not be scriptural and helpful. I’ve made a wishlist, from this page, and look forward to gradually getting a chance to read some of these books!
    – Suz

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