I am left with the impression that I did not read as much as I would have liked, but that I certainly read more than I thought. I am constantly mindful of the quotation from Burroughs that says something to the effect that he will not live long enough to read all the books he’d have liked to have read (and I suppose he did not!). Nevertheless, I am pleased and hope my summation will spur you on to good reading that pertains to you and steer you away from that which may or may not suit your needs ( I am oft reminded of the simple statement from Matthew Henry, “Do not waste your time reading unprofitable books”.) This list is not to mention articles, commentaries (whole or in part), periodicals, devotionals, and book-oodles of information (good and bad) on the world wide web that have encompassed hours of reading (some profitable and some not.) One extremely disappointing and glaring reality about this list is that the vast majority of the authors are living. This is true, save the book edited by Beeke and Najapfour that makes great use of primary sources, a chapter in Feed My Sheep by the late James Montgomery Boice, and one book each by Bonhoeffer and Barth. This is not to say that I do not often consult sermons by dead preachers (Luther Says is always in queue and near at hand), but I have not heeded the warning of Dr. Lewis when he suggested reading one old book for every three new ones. This year must remedy this problem. Along with my reading I always have the Bible in hand and hopefully in heart and recommend as well. This year I enjoyed my first reading of the Old Testament entirely and straight through the Jerusalem Publication Society’s Tanach, and was quite interested in the New Testament NIV 2011 (the committee took freedoms often preached but never printed), and I am now working through the Old Testament in the Holman Christian Standard update.
(Click on Title for ordering information)
Always on the shelf and in queue:
ESV Study Bible
This is the best study Bible for our day. One could use it for its illustrations alone, but will be immensely blessed by its copious notes and historical and theological helps in what I believe is the most formal and readable English translation today. What’s more, is that the contents are available online for free. Make much use of this eternally helpful Study Bible.
Bonhoeffer – Eric Metaxes
I actually closed the back cover of this book hours before 2011, but it left such an impact on me that trickled on into 2011 in a powerful way. I love history, biography especially, things German, evangelical and exciting. This book combines all of the above. This is an essential read for years to come. This book will leave you wanting to read more of Bonhoeffer himself, and of what others say about him. I read the Cost of Discipleship once more, as well as Barth’s Word of God and Word of Man on the heels of this read with fresh eyes and saw the theology that drove the story of this 20th century martyr.
The Word of God and the Word of Man – Karl Barth
This is a collection of a series of lectures from Barth given through the 20’s and 30’s. If you would like to meet the Barth that influenced young men such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, then this is the Barth to read. One will find many concerns for preaching that are relevant to our day as well as many of his best one line quips. Here is a Reformed theology lived out in the first half of the 20th century that led to the resistance to the Third Reich and an umbrella that turned in to the Barmen Confession and guided the Confessing Church.
The Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. . .” Essential reading for every Christian ever (at least the first three chapters). His exposition on Grace through the gospels and in light of the dark canvas in which he lived is exquisite. Here is someone who exegetes Luther’s gospel for the 20th century. Above all he promotes a discipleship of following Christ and not of a simple turning once, but a continuous turning. If you want to understand why he went to the gallows, and why we must also die to ourselves, immerse yourself in this book.
A Praying Life – Paul Miller
If someone is looking for a book to help him or her get started on “praying,” – outside of scripture, this is the book. Through illustrations from his life and practical advice, Miller guides one step-by-step towards a praying life and not just a praying habit. I have and will recommend this book to those with such questions.
Interpreting the Psalms: An Exegetical Handbook – Mark D. Futato
For the teacher or preacher with at least some knowledge of Hebrew, this is a very user-friendly and helpful guide in properly studying these texts for the purpose of presentation and not reading only. Here is a rich plethora of scripture often relegated to cards and funerals that should be brought front and center to the church. One must not forget that it was this book, along with Galatians and Romans that led Luther to his gospel driven view of God.
Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer – ed. Joel R. Beeke and Brian G. Najapfour
Continuing in an emphasis on prayer (much needed in my life), here are voices that call out throughout nearly three centuries to the faithful to make prayer central in the life of the church. One will find himself challenged and burdened to continue in a life of prayer. Beeke and Najapfour (among others) do an excellent job of allowing dead preachers to preach to our own day. Read. And Pray.
Adopted for Life – Russell Moore
If you wish for your heart to break for the things that break the heart of God, then you must read this book. This book will work in you to promote the gospel of Adoption as well as sever the root of prejudices as well as practically advise those wishing to adopt. This book is not only for prospective parents, but for everyone who wishes to have a firmer grasp on our own adoption and realize what is at stake for the church in this very gospel-driven movement.
Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching – ed. Albert Mohler
This book by men who have towered in the pulpit from bowing before their savior is one that will help anyone who stands in the pulpit. One will be reaffirmed in the preeminence of the word, but will also be reminded of the burden we must have for those to whom we preach – the sheep that Jesus loves and commands us to feed. This is an excellent resource on Word-centered preaching.
Passion Driven Sermon – Jim Shaddix
This book should be read not only by everyone who preachers, but all pulpit (pastor) search committees. Jim Shaddix has influenced a generation in many ways that the generation may not even understand, and that is to a gospel call for good expository preaching – filled with the passion wrought by the Holy Spirit. This book, coupled with the next book along with Piper’s Supremacy of God in Preaching, will long top my list of books on preaching to revisit and recommend.
Faithful Preaching – Tony Merida
It is not often that one gets to read a book that he had a very small hand in. This book by my friend and short term mentor is a practical “how-to” guide to the above mentioned text and a user-friendly fast track to the larger volume, Power in the Pulpit by Vines and Shaddix. Everyone who proclaims the word in our day will be helped by this text. This book also includes a great skip across the history of preaching.
The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules – Carolyn Custis James
I loved this book. I love the book of Ruth, but James does a fantastic job in scholarship as well as looking at this very woman-driven narrative through a female heart. Through obvious years of reading, consultation of commentaries and phenomenal use of Hebrew, James presents a Ruth as she should be seen, along with the all-important Naomi and the kinsmen redeemer Boaz. I taught a Bible study on Ruth while reading this book and was excited to see what was in store week to week. What’s more is that one will be brought through the valley of suffering and left being centered on Jesus Christ. I highly recommend this book for study, commentary, or lay reading. What’s even more, it is only $1.99 on Kindle.
Sacred Marriage – Gary Thomas
Cheryl and I had the opportunity to go to this conference earlier this year. As good as the conference is, the book is great and extremely helpful. One is reminded that marriage is a covenant and Thomas explains his thesis that marriage was designed more so to make us holy than happy. He incorporates scripture, church history, and practicality in ways that will benefit Christian couples for the better.
Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian – John Piper
This was my last book for 2011, and one of the most important I have ever read. This book is essential, particularly for those of a similar background as Piper, white – born in the south – predominately white church backgrounds – with inherent prejudices – but will benefit every type of people struggling with ethnic differences. I say this, because it speaks for me at least through part of my life, as it does for the vast majority of my denomination. I pray, along with Dr. Piper, for days of racial reconciliation this side of eternity that will echo the sweet fellowship around the throne that will foreshadow the eruptive praise of the peoples gathered around the throne of the Lamb. Brought to light are many shattering statistics that are themselves shattered by the gospel. I believe an individual truly changed by the gospel may overcome racism in a lifetime, and we should. Read this with me, pray with me, let’s work together.
King’s Cross – Tim Keller
This is a fantastic journey through the book of Mark. Keller’s scholastic bent with practical illustrative ability and heart for the text and the person of Jesus Christ will aid anyone in a walk through this engaging gospel narrative. This book will be consulted anytime I preach passages grappled with in its pages and I highly recommend it to you. Also – I was happily interrupted in a Starbucks in South Louisiana by a member of Redeemer Presbyterian on a mission trip while reading this book.
Keeping Holiday – Starr Meade
I confess: I enjoy well-written allegorical juvenile Christian fiction. While I maintain no one will ever top the Chronicles of Narnia, we should not avoid books that rhyme pretty well with this story. A great holiday read, this book will cause you to reflect deeply about the gospel. This is worth a fire-lit evening or two to revel in the Founder.
Chosen Ones: The Aeydyn Chronicles – Alistair McGrath
This book also fits well in the above-mentioned made-up genre (well-written allegorical juvenile Christian fiction). This one is a bit more fanciful than the above book, but is fascinating in its own right. It is worth reading just to see the imagination of one of the world’s leading theologians come down to earth to aid young people in grasping deep truths about God. Lewis would be proud of his fellow Ulsterian and Oxford scholar. Read and enjoy.
If you don’t like to read, get out of the ministry. – Charles Wesley