Most people who know me know that I like to live life on the edge. I enjoy standing on the brink of danger. For that reason, I plunged right into the middle of a discussion on books with other pastors, elders, and deacons at a recent meeting of the Wycliffe Presbytery at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nacogdoches, Texas.
This room was not a safe place for a book reader, buyer, addict. Several of the men in the room had written or contributed to books that I have read. All of the men were given to reading, sharing book titles, and debating the worth of different authors and ideas. Add to that, there was enough theological prowess in the room to staff Stonewall Jackson’s circle of commanding officers. Not only was Calvinistic theology the very air we were breathing, but those there were committed to a Kuyperian view of the world. (Meaning, there is not a square inch of the universe where Jesus does not say, “Mine.”). Lest it sound like all brains and no heart, these men are also devoted to the care of souls and are committed to the unfolding of Scripture with applications to their people and our times.
I furiously made notes and jotted down titles and fretted over what these book suggestions would do to my budget. Then, I decided that if we cancelled our payment to the electric company, I could buy more books.
Here are the readings suggested and recommended by men of the Wycliffe Presbytery, followed by brief comments from me:
Pastor John Barach from Sulfur, Louisiana:
Total Church and Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.
In Living Prayer by Robert Benson. John said that this book emphasizes the need for prayers at different times throughout the day and exhorts us to have ongoing, patterns of prayer.
A Religion in Shoes, or Brother Bryan of Birminham by Hunter B. Blakely. This book is about a legendary Christian in Birmingham, Alabama who ministered to all kinds of people in all places, especially on the streets.
BH’s comments: I really need and want the Chester and Timmis books on church life. I have enjoyed reading more on the inner workings of church over the past 2 years, but still need more books and more content to sink in. The book on Brother Bryan of Birmingham is a must have. It is available through http://www.solid-ground-books.com/detail_1706.asp.
Farris Paxton of Jonesboro, Arkansas:
Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help and How to Reverse It by Bob Lupton
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fickett.
BH’s Comments: Both of these books are much needed warnings to Christians that we not fork over money and gifts in ways that hinder those who are receiving the benefits. It is not a pleasant truth, but much of what we have done to help the poor has only prolonged their conditions. I was reminded of times where I have witnessed the church helping someone where the help did not truly help anyone.
David Givler of San Antonio:
The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens. This book addresses the cultural decline and problems engulfing our society.
The Pastor by Eugene Peterson. Emphasizes, among other things, the Christian use of the imagination.
BH’s comments: “Amen” to everything that Eugene Peterson has written. I loved The Pastor. That said, the reader has to watch for certain ideas and usages that Peterson has that are not sound. Concerning the Hitchens’ book, it is painful to read these accounts of our cultural problems, but serious Christians really have no choice.
Todd Davis of Searcy, Arkansas:
I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by Rene Girard.
Prayers for My Village by Michael Bouttier. A devotional book written in poetic form. A strong call for a life of devotion, prayer, and concern for those around us.
BH’s Comments: I was not familiar with either author or book. I am especially interested in the book Prayers for My Village. Since preaching on the Lord’s Prayer, I have an increasing interest in books on prayer and an increasing awareness of my own prayer needs.
Tom Lincoln of Texarkana, AR, my fellow co-pastor and elder:
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller.
BH’s Comments: I read and really liked Keller’s book on marriage. His wife also contributed to the book. We need to be reading books on marriage and implementing the ideas on a continual basis.
Gene Franklin of Hockley, Texas:
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien. Gene read this book this past year during a time when he was recovering from having his appendix removed.
Behind the Veil (The Epistles of John) by Peter Leithart.
A Son for Glory (Job) by Toby Sumpter
BH’s Comments: I don’t want to have my appendix removed, but I do envy when someone gets a longer than normal stretch of time to tackle a big book. If Gene Franklin likes those other two books, then I am convinced that I need to read them.
Gabe Wetmore of Monroe, LA:
Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel by Scott J. Hafeman.
BH’s Comments: Gabe described the book as scholarly. I generally don’t have the theological mind and time to do a lot of this type of reading. However, I recognize that sometimes I have to dive into the deep end of the pool.
Lee Hill of Nacogdoches, TX:
Love Walked Among Us by Paul Miller.
BH’s Comments: Lee ought to be a Texas Ranger. I don’t mean the baseball team or the modern law officers who drive cars, but rather the old style Texas Ranger, carrying a gun and riding a horse. But he is also a serious minded elder. I am currently plodding through Paul Miller’s A Praying Life, and Lee convinced me that I need this book.
Randy Booth of Nacogdoches, TX:
Heaven by Randy Alcorn
Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright.
BH’s Comments: I bought Heaven a good while back based largely on Randy’s recommendation. I have the Wright book, but have not read them. Randy has been preaching on the New Heavens and the New Earth and found these books useful. In this case, no further purchase is necessary, but time and commitment is needed.
Steve Wilkins of Monroe, LA:
Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves
Imagining the Kingdom by James K. A. Smith
What to Expect When No One is Expecting by Jonathan V. Last
Unbroken by Laura Hildebrand.
BH’s Comments: Steve Wilkins began overloading my book shelves years ago. I know I would like the James K. A. Smith book since I read the previous volume in the series and loved it. The book on the Trinity sounds like a must read, for we often grasp little of what it means to be Trinitarians. I was totally surprised by the Jonathan Last book. Declining birth rates spell doom for our country and culture. This book has lots of implications for believers. We need more babies, more faithful discipleship, and more evangelism. Declining birthrates is a judgment from God, as Steve pointed out.
Jeff Neill of Fort Worth, Texas:
The Baptism of Jesus the Christ by Ralph Smith
Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller
Deep Exegesis by Peter Leithart
A Higher Call by Adam Makos
BH’s Comments: I enjoyed reading some of Ralph Smith’s books some years back, so I should get The Baptism of Jesus. Other than commentaries, there is not much we find on that remarkable event. Anything by Tim Keller is on either my “Have List” or “Must Have List” or “Should Read Again List.” I was convicted on my need to read the Leithart book, and I am hungry to read A Higher Call. That last book is an amazing story from World War II about two pilots, one American, one German.
Ben House of Texarkana, AR:
I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven
Lectures to My Students by Charles H. Spurgeon
BH’s Comments: I chose I Heard the Owl Call My Name because I figured most of the men were not familiar with it. Also, as I pointed out in a recent blog, it reminded me powerfully of the need for a pastor to love his congregation. Spurgeon is simply fun and incredibly instructive. Even when I don’t agree with Spurgeon, I enjoy and grow through reading him.