I figure one of the ways I can be most useful as a blogger is to point readers to good books. One way I do that here on the blog is through a segment called Book Blurbs where, say, every four months or so, I list out some of the books I’m reading (or listening to) along with a brief blurb on each book. I don’t mention every book I read, only the noteworthy ones. You can find the books that made this edition of Book Blurbs below.
Book Blurbs (January – April 2020)
1. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
I said in My 2020 Reading Aspirations post that I want to read the entirety of Grudem’s Systematic Theology this year. It’s one of my four goals for 2020. I’ve read chapters of it before but never the entire thing all the way through. Well, I’m about 400+ pages in now and I’m really enjoying it. At first, I read it as part of my devotions along with my Bible, but now I’m reading it whenever I can. Grudem is extremely clear and accessible. This is definitely a good introductory theology book for those who want to start reading theology.
2. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
I listened to this book on Audible. Loved it. The premise of the book is about how knowledge workers can work deeply without being distracted. The deep life that Newport advocates is one I long to live, although I am discouraged by how quickly I get distracted by social media and email, even after (or while!) reading a book like this. And while many of Newport’s principles are helpful, I also want to make sure I’m accessible and willing to be sacrificial of my time to serve others. I’m a pastor, not a CEO. Common grace means I can learn from anyone, but not all wisdom from the secular field is transferrable to the Christian life. Still, there is a treasure-trove of information in here worth pondering. It’s the kind of book you’d have to read a couple of times for the principles to really sink in.
3. The Gospel According to John by D. A. Carson
I didn’t feel like listing out every commentary on John’s Gospel that I’m reading and saying a blurb about each one but suffice it say that, along with Carson’s volume, I’m using Köstenberger, Keener, F. F. Bruce, Richard Phillip’s commentary, and the commentary on John in the Christ-Centered Exposition Series (which is a good series for preachers, by the way) for sermon prep as we go through the Fourth Gospel as a church. Carson’s work is probably the best from an exegetical stance. He’s great at telling you what a verse does not mean, how it’s usually been wrongly understood, and then what the verse actually means. He’s also wise to avoid speculative arguments.
4. Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the EFCA
I’m pursuing credentialing (licensure and ordination) in the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA). For the licensure process, among other things, I’ve had to write a 20-page paper, have my character evaluated, and read this book along with four other ones. I then will have to pass an oral exam. Then I can be licensed (if I pass). After being licensed, I have to wait three years before pursuing ordination. So all of this takes time, but I hope to be licensed soon, Lord willing. Oh, and about the book: it’s good. It’s helpful not just for those pursuing credentialing in the EFCA, but anyone who wants a rudimentary introduction to basic Christian belief.
5. Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages by Haddon Robinson
I’m spoiled because I read Bryan Chapell’s book, Christ-Centered Preaching, before Robinson’s volume, and Chapell’s book is the go-to how-to book on expository preaching. Robinson’s book is good. It’s just that my expectations for the book were probably too high. I will say, however, that Robinson’s teaching on how to find the big idea from your text for your sermon is extremely useful and even potentially paradigm-shifting for some.
6. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
Again, listened to this one on Audible. If I read a secular book it’s usually (but not always) going to be a personal development book. This is a book that has taken the world by storm as it has sold over 1M copies so far and is consistently at the top of the Amazon charts, even though it was published in 2018. There is a ton of good information here, but I was left not quite sure what to do with it all.
7. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson
An extremely helpful tool for every pastor to have in his library. As the name suggests, it takes the OT texts that are either explicitly mentioned (roughly one-third of the NT is OT quotations!) or hinted at in the NT and provides a commentary on the passage.
8. Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent and Barbara Hughes
Liberating indeed. Hughes — Kent and Barbara — vulnerably share some of their scars and what they learned through the ups and downs of Christian ministry. The fact that they have had several lumps in ministry gives them more credibility to write a book like this, and it’s even sweeter that the Lord eventually blessed Kent with an extremely fruitful ministry after going through seasons of hardship in the pastorate. How insufferable of a people we would be if the Lord massively blessed us but never disciplined us! My biggest takeaway from the book might be cheesy, but it’s this: I cannot always control my circumstances, but I can always control my attitude. A positive attitude in ministry is crucial. Cheesy, I know. But it helped me.
9. Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative by Sam Storms
The topic of the doctrine of the millennium has increasingly been on my mind. I’m trying to figure out what I believe about it and why. This book by Storms is not only an articulate defense for amillennialism but also a strong defense against dispensationalism.
10. Commentary on the New Testament by Robert Gundry
I bought this commentary after reading a recommendation about it on Twitter. I’m glad I did. I’m a sucker for commentaries, and this commentary has been a welcomed companion for my sermon prep.