January & February in Books

My goal in doing this type of blog every two months is to give you, the readers, an opportunity to look at certain books that you may like to read. So, here are the books that I have read throughout January and February.

honest evangelism

Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice

I try to read one book on evangelism every six months or so. There are numerous reasons for this. One reason is because it is so easy to lose sight of the discipline of evangelism. If we are not mindful of it then we simply won’t do it. Reading a book on evangelism helps me to be mindful! Another reason is because each individual says something different about evangelism. Everybody has a different technique that they use. For Rico, it is Jesus’ identity, Jesus’ mission, and Jesus’ call. So, in a conversation, find a way to talk about Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, His mission in rescuing sinners, and His call for individuals to repent and place their faith in Him. I found this to be helpful and will seek to put it in my evangelism tool kit. The last reason I read books on evangelism relatively often is because I want to be more faithful as a Christian. These little Christian living books on evangelism teach me how to be more faithful.

pastoral theology

Pastoral Theology by Daniel Akin and Scott Pace

This was a book that I had to read for a seminary class. This is not a ground breaking book when it comes to pastoral ministry. It reads somewhat like a miniature systematic theology with brief sections on the practical implications of certain doctrines in regards to the pastorate.

on pastoring

On Pastoring by H.B. Charles Jr.

I also had to read this book for a seminary class. Though this book was not theologically deep, it was really entertaining to read. H.B. Charles Jr. was the son of a pastor, he began pastoring when he was seventeen years old, and he has many friends that are pastors. So, inevitably, he has made some mistakes, he has done a lot of things well, and he has innumerable stories to tell. This allows him to write this book that is filled with practical pastoral wisdom for young pastors.

the betrayal

The Betrayal: A Novel on John Calvin by Douglas Bond

This is a fictional work by Douglas Bond that lets you in on the life and times of John Calvin. Bond’s aim was to write an intriguing book from the view point of one of Calvin’s enemies that debunks all the negative modern caricatures (and there are a lot) that people have of Calvin. It is a very interesting read and I found myself admiring this theological giant even more by the way that Bond presents him throughout this novel.

Also, there are two reasons that I am reading this book. The first reason is because my wife gave this to me as a Christmas present. The second reason is because a brother of mine in Christ thought that reading some fiction would help me be more creative in my transitions, illustrations, and word choices during the preaching moment. I am taking heed to this counsel in hopes that reading fiction will help me to be a better preacher.

the temple and the church's mission

The Temple and the Church’s Mission by G.K. Beale

This is a biblical theology book that I picked up because I have a desire to become a better theologian. Often times, our theology is a little off because we misunderstand the overall message of the Bible. Books like these help us to see broad sweeping biblical themes (in this case the Temple) which, in turn, help us to better interpret particular passages of Scripture.

In this books G.K. Beale argues this (I am just going to quote him at length):

God created the cosmos to be his great temple, in which he rested after his creative work. His special revelatory presence, nevertheless, did not yet fill the entire earth because his human vice-regent was to achieve this purpose. God had installed this vice-regent in the garden sanctuary to extend the boundaries of God’s presence there worldwide. Adam disobeyed this mandate, so that humanity no longer enjoyed God’s presence in the small Garden. As a result, all humanity and all creation became contaminated with sin. Therefore, in view of the storyline of the Bible, the assertions about God’s inability to exist in any building on earth include allusion to the old earth and temple not being an adequate abode for him because of being polluted with sin and the need for purification and restoration before God’s Shekinah presence, limited to heaven and the holy of holies, could dwell everywhere throughout the cosmos. All human attempts to extend God’s presence throughout a sinful earth met with, at best, limited success. The successful fulfillment of the Adamic commission awaited the presence – and obedience – of the last Adam, Jesus Christ.

Susie

Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susanna Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr.

While many people know of Charles Spurgeon, very few know much about Susanna Spurgeon. This biography allows you to walk back into the 19th century to look at this godly wife, mother, author, editor, book distributor, and church planter. She persevered through affliction. She honored Christ with both her life and her death. She abounded in the work of the Lord. She did this even when she was bed ridden because of chronic illness. You will not regret reading about this woman. Moreover, you will not regret seeking to imitate many of the ways she imitated Christ.

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How Shall We Then Live? By Francis Schaeffer

This book was first published in 1975. Schaeffer sought to reveal to his readers that how we think directly impacts how we live. He says, “What we are in our thought world directly determines how we act.” This is the thesis of this book. He then walks through 2000 years of history (from the time of Ancient Rome to our modern day) to reveal the effects of certain world views (pagan gods, emperor worship, renaissance humanism, modern humanism, a belief in an infinite personal God, the enlightenment, etc.). Schaeffer studied this so much that the end of his book is prophetic. For example, after diagnosing the world view that lead to the passing of Roe vs. Wade, he writes, “In regard to the fetus, the courts have arbitrarily separated ‘aliveness’ from ‘personhood,’ and if this is so, why not arbitrarily do the same with the aged? So the steps move along, and euthanasia may well become increasingly acceptable.” This is just one example of how Schaeffer foresaw the trajectory of our western culture.

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Christianity at the Crossroads by Michael Kruger

When we think about the history of Christianity, we often think that it was Jesus, Paul, the reformers, and then Billy Graham! This is not the case though. After the death of the apostles, churches were gathering, men were preaching the gospel, people were fighting for orthodoxy, the Scriptures were being copied and circulated, apologists were defending the validity of the Christian religion to the Roman elite, and theologians were writing major works. This book will really help you to appreciate what our brothers and sisters in Christ did throughout the second century. It will also open up your eyes to the historicity of the Christian faith!

What are you Reading?

Let me know what books that you have been reading!

Unreasonable Ambition

Wisdom from Spurgeon

The other day, I was reading through some notes that I had taken before I taught a biographical teaching on Charles Spurgeon to the college ministry. As I was reading, I ran across a quote that I believe is particularly helpful for Christians in every age group. Spurgeon said, “Many of our young folks want to commence their service for Christ by doing great things, and therefore do nothing at all; let none of my readers become the victims of such an unreasonable ambition.”

Why This is True

The reason I think this is a helpful quote is because it really presents a timeless truth. Far too many Christians, especially within the younger generation, really do want to begin their service for Christ by doing something great. They are always talking about possibly going to seminary to learn more theology so that they can train up pastors overseas, pastor a church, plant a church, become a missionary, open up an orphanage, end sex trafficking, etc.

I have personally heard this kind of thinking often as I have interned in a student ministry, attended seminary, and served in college ministry throughout my 20s. I have heard numerous youth tell me that they were going to be missionaries or pastors. I have talked to numerous college students that talk about how, after they graduate, they are going to go overseas to an unreached people group and risk imprisonment and death in order to share the gospel with people who have never heard about Jesus. I have had numerous people tell me that they were going to finish up seminary and then go do missions in the Middle East, China, or South America. Some seminarians talk zealously about how they are going to plant churches in major cities for the sake of Christ. There just seems to be a thought process within the younger generation related to doing great and magnificent things for Christ.

And, do not get me wrong, some of this thinking is fine. It is admirable to want to do great and magnificent things for Christ! However, as Spurgeon said, it is an “unreasonable ambition” if this is how you think that you are going to begin your service to Christ.

People do not begin their service to Christ by doing these great and magnificent things. That is not how this whole Christian walk thing works. It would be like a person wanting to commence their discipline of running by running a marathon, or somebody wanting to commence their work career as the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company. This type of thinking lacks wisdom. We know that you cannot commence the discipline of running by starting out with a marathon, and that you cannot commence your work career by starting out as the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company. This is the same with serving Christ. It is not as though we can go throughout high school, college, or seminary doing nothing (or very little) for Christ and then, upon graduation, go do something great and magnificent for Christ.

And the practical evidence that this is an unreasonable ambition is because many of the individuals that I have heard make these types of comments have went on to do other things than the great and magnificent things that they were intending on doing. I have seen some of them quit attending church. I have seen some go on to a fine career where they make a lot of money. I have seen some settle into an average career. And the reason for this is because, though they had an ambition to do something great and magnificent for Christ, they never understood the importance of doing everything for Christ.

Sure, they had a hopeful ambition to go evangelize the lost in another country, but they were not consistently seeking to evangelize their neighbor. They were desirous to preach the word, but they would not consistently read the word. They were zealous to plant a church, but they were not willing to serve in children’s ministry. They wanted to pastor a mega church, but they didn’t want to teach the gospel to children. They wanted to engage an unreached people group risking imprisonment and death, but they wouldn’t pick up loose paper lying around in the sanctuary after a Sunday morning service. They hoped to one day do great and magnificent things, but they never started being faithful in small, mundane things. And since this is the case, they will ultimately end up doing nothing. They will do nothing for Christ now, and they will do nothing for Christ in the years to come. This is sad!

Application

We must not fall for this unreasonable ambition. Rather, let us aspire to do great and magnificent things for Christ, but let us aspire to do those great and magnificent things for Christ as we faithfully yield the whole of our lives (even in the small and mundane things) in faithful obedience to Jesus now. And, as we do this, the Lord will be preparing more and more service opportunities for us to steward for his glory! This is how the Christian life works. The reward for faithfulness in ministry is greater opportunities for faithfulness in ministry (Luke 19:15-27). May we seek to commence our service to Christ with this in mind.

College Students – Read These 7 Books in 2019

Over the past two and a half years, I have spent and still spend a lot of time with Christian college students. So, from my own personal walk with Christ (throughout college and into my mid 20s) and from seeing many college students following Christ, I would recommend these 7 books for Christian college students to read throughout 2019.

The Seven

  1. The Bible (Lots of Pages)
    1. Most Christian college students have never read through the entire Bible. Now, I say that knowing that most professed Christians in general have probably never read through the Bible. . . . so do not frown on college students for this! With that said, Christians students should seek to read through the Bible this year. You can try a reading plan. You can try to read through it at your own pace. Just try to make your way through the Bible. You will be challenged, stretched, encouraged, and built up in the faith as you seek to do this. My first time doing this was when I was a senior in college. Convicted by the fact that I had never read through the entire Bible, I read it in three months (yes, to my shame, I skipped the genealogies)! Since then, I have consistently read the Bible every year. I am currently on my sixth time through the Bible and I am enjoying it more than I previously did the first five times because I am understanding it so much better. So, take up the Bible and read. Seek to be as acquainted with the Bible as you possibly can be!
  2. Knowing God by J.I. Packer (288 pages)
    1. Every college student is a theologian. Each college student has a particular belief about who God is. And, in all honesty, each student believes dogmatically about what he or she believes. Once you say something contrary to what they believe about Jesus, salvation, the Spirit, spiritual gifts, etc., then they will argue with you. So, each student is a passionate theologian. However, that does not mean that each person is a good theologian. Just because we have a belief about God that we are passionate about does not mean that it is right. Therefore, we need to seek to be good theologians. Knowing God will help you with this. J.I. Packer will teach you what it is like to think carefully about who God is and how He has revealed himself in the Bible.
  3. The Work of Christ by R.C. Sproul (224 pages)
    1. Most students that I have talked to focus primarily on the death and resurrection of Christ. They focus on the cross, the blood, the death, and the resurrection. The problem with this is that it is not the whole story. The work of Christ in his life is just as important as the work of Christ in his death. Jesus being born in Bethlehem, being a descendent of David, being circumcised on the eight day, being baptized to fulfill all righteousness, etc., are all important to our salvation. Had Jesus not been blameless, he would have not been a sufficient sacrifice. Had he not been righteous, there would be no righteousness for us to be gifted with through faith in Jesus. Thus, the work of Christ in his life is of immense important. R.C. Sproul will show you this.
  4. The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (167 pages)
    1. So, whereas The Work of Christ will show you the importance of Christ’s earthly ministry, The Truth of the Cross will keen in on the significance of Christ’s work on the cross. And, let’s be honest, it would be of great value to become experts in all that happened on the cross. I mean what does it mean that the wrath of our just God was satisfied in the death of Christ? What does it mean that Christ made atonement for us? What does it mean that He was our substitute? What does it mean that he bore our sin in his body on the cross? What does it mean that he was made a curse for us? Sproul will show you the answers to these questions.
  5. Tactics by Gregory Koukl (208 Pages)
    1. Evangelism is hard. It is hard to navigate conversations to specific points where we can proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. This is most certainly hard in a day where there is increasing hostility to a Christian worldview. . . .especially on college campuses. It is not abnormal for somebody to bombard you with things that they have heard from others (their highly educated liberal professors) once they hear you say that you are a Christian. How can the Bible be true if it is written by men? How can you believe abortion is wrong? How come you don’t think a woman has the right to choose how she uses her own body? Doesn’t it say that homosexuals ought to be stoned in the Bible? The Jesus of history is different from the Jesus of faith. The historical Jesus was just some Jew. The Jesus of faith is some mythological deity that early Christians made up. How can you fall for believing in this mythological deity? The questions abound! Gregory Koukl will give you a neat way to navigate these questions in a gentle way. He will help you turn these types of conversations into something that is very beneficial. Ultimately, he will help you to expose unbeliever’s faulty thinking, and to navigate these types of conversations to Jesus Christ and him crucified.
  6. The Story of Reality by Gregory Koukl (208 Pages)
    1. We, as Christians, do not believe in a myth. When we speak about the creation of the heavens and the earth, the depravity of man, the person of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus, etc., we are talking about reality. This is what has really happened. Therefore, everything else that is contrary to the Christian faith is false. It simply isn’t reality. Gregory Koukl, throughout The Story of Reality, articulates how the Christian worldview makes the most sense. This will be of great help to a Christian college student.
  7. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney (352 Pages)
    1. Most college students do not know what it looks like to progressively grow in holiness. They have an understanding of believing in Christ and being saved, but they do not have an understanding of what it looks like to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Therefore, they don’t. This isn’t good. If we remain ignorant of this facet of the Christian life we will remain spiritual babes. This is why this book is so important. Donald Whitney will show us how God uses these ordinary disciplines (Bible reading, meditation, prayer, evangelism, etc.) to help Christians grow and conform into the image of Jesus.

I am sure that others would recommend a different seven books, but from what I have seen throughout my years in college and in college ministry, these seven books will be beneficial for college students. They are easy to read, pretty short, and address particular areas of thought that are largely neglected.