It is difficult to understate the value of reading books. As someone said, you need grist for your mill. The books are the grain, your mind is the mill, and your imagination bakes the bread. We need to eat the bread, so make sure it is fresh, and make sure there is plenty of honey butter.
So make sure you find the best books, turn off the TV, get up an hour earlier and read, read, read.
I’m thankful for my books. These are some of my best friends. Their truths keep me going.
My 2019 book reviews can be found here. If you want to skip ahead to just the five-star books, you can look here.
A fuller list of some of the books I read in 2019 and beyond can be found here. My Book of the Year was The Father of Faith Missions by Robert Dann. My Surprise Book of the Year was Passions of the Heart by John Street.
Douglas Wilson, Canon Press, 2018, 2016 pages, 4 of 5 stars
Summary: a satirical novel mocking the worst of evangelicalism to show all things rest beneath Christ’s feet
This book brims with current and vital themes in the church: courage under fire; weaponized apologies; strong, chivalrous masculinity; talented, clever femininity; the leprous effects of spineless Christianity; vapid feminism; Islam and her fruit; theological liberalism.
Wilson packages all this in a funny little novel, sprinkles in some romance, rebukes us for our fear and urges us to fight! The Christian flag story is just a platform for Wilson to show that Christ should reign at home, at school, and in the public square.
Pros: Wilson picks the right people to be the heroes. Hollywood loves carrying Jezebel and Ahab away on their shoulders. Not Wilson. I want my sons to be like the college kid Trevor (tough, competitive, and engaged to be married) and my wife to stay like Maria (savvy, beautiful, manager extraordinaire). And I want to be like Dr. Tom: humble and courageous. Wilson knows who the good guys are. These are the ones we’re to imitate (1Cor. 11:1). Continue reading
Jason Helopoulos, 2015, Baker, 208 pages, 4 of 5 stars
Summary: forty-eight brief chapters of warning and encouragement for new pastors
The genius of this book by Helopoulos (current pastor of University Reformed in Michigan) isn’t necessarily the insight or profundity but the short, direct, biblical, and practical chapters. One can imagine a busy pastor having a young pastor-to-be that needs mentoring. What resource could he turn to?
He grabs the Handbook along with the young intern, bows in prayer, reads the Scripture heading, and then studies the 2-4 page chapter together. Once the parson provides the necessary explanations and fillers on calling, leadership, sermon prep, candidating, hospital visits or whatever the topic may be, an hour and a half has flown by and the meeting is over. Continue reading
Tim Challies, 2015, Cruciform Press, 120 pages, 4 of 5 stars
Summary: a brief, contemporary, biblical, and practical guide to productivity
A couple years ago I reviewed a book on productivity by Kevin DeYoung. This paperback by Challies is about half the size, more practical and just as good. Tim Challies is a family man and pastor that writes a lot. He posts daily on one of the most well-known Christian blogs in the world. He gets a lot done. He writes here to give some tips.
Overview and Strengths: The book contains twelve concise and helpful chapters. Chapter one lays the foundation by giving the readers a six-question catechism on productivity. For example, “What is productivity? Answer: productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. I like Challies’ format here. Chapter two describes three productivity thieves. I struggle most with the second. Continue reading
Gordon Hugenberger, Baker, 1998, 340 pages, 5 of 5 stars
Summary: Malachi 2:10-16 teaches conclusively that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.
Years ago I wrote my seminary thesis on polygamy. I thought the most difficult question would be: “What should I do with polygamists wanting to join my church?” I instead walked away from that paper scratching my head and asking: “What exactly is marriage?”
That is, at what moment does it officially begin? Does marriage start when the bride price is paid, or when there are vows? What if a couple of four decades never exchanged vows? Is marriage an agreement between families, as many today in Africa espouse? What consummates a marriage, the vows or the sexual union? Do answers to these questions differ within various cultures?
Hugenberger–former longtime prof at Gordon-Conwell and pastor of the historic Park Street Church–has been an invaluable aid in helping me unravel these conundrums, especially in the African culture I reside in where the parameters of marriage are often unclear. Though he writes primarily to Westerners, the insights remain indispensable to my setting. Continue reading
Twenty-four biographical sketches of Calvin’s closest friendships
This wasn’t a page turner but I’d still recommend the book because the chapters are short and the topic of friendship is sparse today in Christian literature. I should say books on godly masculine
friendship are rare, not this
Friends are often best at pointing out another’s weaknesses. Calvin knew he didn’t always have an easy personality. His friends undoubtedly noticed as well. But Calvin also seemed to value friendship more than most because his marriage was short and he had no children. Friends filled in the gaps.
Strengths: There were a number of interesting points about Calvin’s friendships. For example, most of his friends were not from Geneva where he ministered most of his life. Many Genevans were his enemies. His bond with Viret (over four hundred surviving letters between them) was built on trust—Calvin confiding in him some of his most embarrassing sins.
Costi Hinn, Zondervan, 2019, 224 pages, 3 of 5 stars
Summary: an autobiography of Benny Hinn’s nephew and how he finally left the prosperity gospel and found Christ.
You want a history of the prosperity gospel (PG) in America? Read Bowler. A theological treatise against the PG movement? Read Strange Fire. But suppose you have a buddy at work with anointing oil in his cubicle and bumper stickers flashing Isaiah 53:5 (“with his wounds we are healed”). He loves TBN. He reads everything Crefloe Dollar and Joyce Meyer put out. He’ll never pick up a hardcover by Justin Peters or Johnny Mac.
This might be the book to give him. Sometimes stories that put you in the moment (“I carried cash–a lot of cash”, p. 57) can be more convincing than assertions. Benny Hinn is perhaps the world’s most well-known prosperity evangelist. Benny grooming his nephew to be his successor, only for Costi to abandon this teaching and move to orthodox Christianity would be like the brother of the infamous atheist Christopher Hitchens coming to faith in Christ. This happened by the way. God has a sense of humor. Continue reading